Our current technological advancements in regards to harvesting solar energy through the use of photo-voltaic cells have reached a pretty astounding level, with solar panel farms and solar energy in general spreading all across the globe. But scientists have not stopped at the idea of using solar energy only for electricity because a new polymer that stores solar heat was invented at MIT.
The newly invented polymer comes in the form of a thin film that can store heat during the day and release it at later stages when it is required. The applications of this polymer are countless, ranging from heating up homes or even in space, where nights can last for months on end and in some cases, even years. But even on Earth, our Sun provides heat for less than half a day, while in some regions it only raises temperatures for just a couple of hours before it sets once again, especially during the winter season.
The concept of a material that can store solar heat or energy is not a new one at all. But this new polymer differs from previous attempts due to its solid state. Up to this point, all heat-capturing materials have been developed as liquids, making their use in normal day-to-day life rather nonviable.
The way through which this polymer captures heat is new a swell, with researchers using chemical compounds known as anzobenzenes that store solar heat and energy on a molecular level. The compounds change their structure when subjected to solar energy, storing it for an indefinite amount of time within themselves. Once a chemical trigger is activated, all of the stored heat is released evenly across the surface of the polymer film, rising temperatures by 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although this temperature burst is rather low, researchers are hoping to increase it exponentially in the next few years, making the polymer’s applicability in normal scenarios rather viable. Because of its solid state, it can be woven into clothing that warm the wearer during cold nights or can be even included in the manufacturing of cars, making the snow and ice which could cover them melt in a short amount of time.
Its manufacturing is rather simple and can be made by using commonly available technology and materials. This will completely shift the house construction market that uses insulation as a means of storing heat in the colder season, even though this process is not entirely effective. Even if complete insulation is achieved, although as impossible as it may seem, heat will still dissipate over time. But this polymer film stores heat on a chemical level in the form of energy that will not deteriorate in any way over time, remaining in a sort of stasis until the trigger is activated and it gets released.
Although a new polymer that stores solar heat was invented at MIT, it will still take an extended period of time before it will reach the general markets in order for it to be used as a common construction material. Further tests have to be conducted, as well as improving the material’s capability of rising the heat even higher when triggered.