A recently developed material could pave way to clothing that stores solar energy, releases it on demand or windshields that store solar power and release it to melt away snow.
MIT engineers think that the two ideas could soon become reality as they managed to design a polymer film that can coat different materials such as textile fibers and window glass. The polymer can store solar power during daytime and release it hours later or when the user really needs it as heat.
So far, other materials only managed to store solar energy and convert it into electricity later on. But the MIT material can store and morph solar energy into heat. A study on its properties was recently published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.
The MIT team explained that their material does not store solar heat directly because despite an excellent insulation heat would eventually dissipate. Instead they managed to store solar energy through chemical reactions that forces the energy to remain stable for long periods.
But after a stimulus is applied, the stored energy is rapidly released snapping a burst of heat in the process. Yet, the idea of a material that uses chemical reactions to store solar energy is not new. Nevertheless, past attempts to give these materials a real application often failed miserably because they couldn’t be applied on solid materials.
Ted Sargent, lead engineer in the MIT team, explained that never before a material so versatile has been invented. The polymer can both attract solar energy and store it for later use.
The recent work was based on previous attempts to design a cooker that could store solar energy and cook after sunset. At that time, the team realized that it would be a great loss to use the new material only for cooking purposes. So, they thought about ways to reshape the material into a thin film that could be applied on various other materials including fabric.
In the end, they obtained a highly transparent film, so it can be used on window glass and windshields, as well. And because it is transparent it would not be prohibited by the law, which bars even thin wires from being applied onto car windshields. This is why BMW, which funded the research, showed a great interest in the research.
Image Source: Pixabay
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