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Molecules Can Store Solar Energy Indefinitely
Mashable ^ | 04/16/2014 | TODD WOODY

Posted on 04/16/2014 10:07:14 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

The next big thing in solar energy could be microscopic.

Scientists at MIT and Harvard University have devised a way to store solar energy in molecules that can then be tapped to heat homes, water or used for cooking.

The best part: The molecules can store the heat forever and be endlessly re-used while emitting absolutely no greenhouse gases. Scientists remain a way's off in building this perpetual heat machine but they have succeeded in the laboratory at demonstrating the viability of the phenomenon called photoswitching.

"Some molecules, known as photoswitches, can assume either of two different shapes, as if they had a hinge in the middle," MIT researchers said in statement about the paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry. "Exposing them to sunlight causes them to absorb energy and jump from one configuration to the other, which is then stable for long periods of time."

To liberate that energy all you have to do is expose the molecules to a small amount of light, heat or electricity and when they switch back to the other shape they emit heat. "In effect, they behave as rechargeable thermal batteries: taking in energy from the sun, storing it indefinitely, and then releasing it on demand," the scientists said.

The researchers used a photoswitching substance called an azobenzene, attaching the molecules to substrates of carbon nanotubes. The challenge: Packing the molecules closely enough together to achieve a sufficient energy density to generate usable heat.

It appeared that the researchers had failed when they were only able to pack fewer than half the number of molecules needed as indicated by an earlier computer simulation of the experiment.

(Excerpt) Read more at mashable.com ...


TOPICS: Science
KEYWORDS: energy; solarenergy

1 posted on 04/16/2014 10:07:14 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

One step closer to proving the existence of our Creator at a time.


2 posted on 04/16/2014 10:21:29 AM PDT by jsanders2001
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To: SeekAndFind
Scientists at MIT and Harvard University have devised a way to store solar energy in molecules that can then be tapped to heat homes, water or used for cooking. The best part: The molecules can store the heat forever and be endlessly re-used while emitting absolutely no greenhouse gases.

superman

3 posted on 04/16/2014 10:23:24 AM PDT by Alex Murphy ("the defacto Leader of the FR Calvinist Protestant Brigades")
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To: SeekAndFind

If this works as claimed, environmentalists will still be against it. Especially producers of bird killing windmills and solar panels.


4 posted on 04/16/2014 10:23:56 AM PDT by Organic Panic
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To: SeekAndFind

I do believe that solar energy will be the main source of energy for our civilization... eventually.

In the meantime (the next 2-5 decades) it’s good to have plentiful oil and natural gas to bridge the gap.

Too bad we can’t also rely on nuclear power to bridge the gap, but the anti-nuke nannies killed that for us. Anyway, good that we have North Dakota and other energy-rich regions in this country.


5 posted on 04/16/2014 10:31:41 AM PDT by samtheman
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To: SeekAndFind

Nature already stores solar energy in molecules called hydrocarbons. And they release no more greenhouse gasses than was used to create them.


6 posted on 04/16/2014 10:37:28 AM PDT by Telepathic Intruder (The only thing the Left has learned from the failures of socialism is not to call it that)
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To: samtheman

But but but what is the depletion rate @ 0 degrees????
I can see a great new product. Solar homes for the Homeless!
Solar panels on a Fridge delivery box!


7 posted on 04/16/2014 10:38:32 AM PDT by DocJhn
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To: samtheman

Not only bridge, but provide the power for research and production. How do Greenies think this stuff will be made? Fairy dust?


8 posted on 04/16/2014 10:38:43 AM PDT by edpc (Wilby 2016)
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To: SeekAndFind
Scientists remain a way's off in building this perpetual heat machine but they have succeeded in the laboratory at demonstrating the viability of the phenomenon called photoswitching.

If this had any economic viability they'd be keeping their mouths shut at this point in development.

9 posted on 04/16/2014 10:46:51 AM PDT by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: SeekAndFind
Silly rabbit!

Molecules already store solar energy indefinitely.

It's called gas, oil and coal.

10 posted on 04/16/2014 10:47:25 AM PDT by Mariner (War Criminal #18)
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To: SeekAndFind
Scientists remain a way's off in building this perpetual heat machine

That's not a perpetual heat machine. It needs to be replenished with light (sun). But otherwise, sounds like an interesting bit of research.
11 posted on 04/16/2014 10:48:14 AM PDT by Svartalfiar
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To: Organic Panic

Density is the issue. The pigments in your eyes work on the same principle, selectively by range of frequency.


12 posted on 04/16/2014 10:59:39 AM PDT by lepton ("It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into"--Jonathan Swift)
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To: samtheman

Solar = fusion?


13 posted on 04/16/2014 11:30:58 AM PDT by dhs12345
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To: Svartalfiar

Used for recording?


14 posted on 04/16/2014 11:32:00 AM PDT by dhs12345
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To: SeekAndFind

Azobenzenes are building blocks for a host of chemicals such as pigments, and are already produced in large quantities. So I hope this works.


15 posted on 04/16/2014 11:43:56 AM PDT by mfish13 (Elections have Consequences.)
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To: SeekAndFind

I wonder if they’re talking about the photo-isomerization of azobenzene from cis- to trans- and vice versa. I remember learning about that in Organic Chem 40 years ago. I can’t see the phenomenon as much of a storage for photo energy, but maybe that’s where the density issue comes in.


16 posted on 04/16/2014 12:53:42 PM PDT by IronJack
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To: SeekAndFind

I wonder if they’re talking about the photo-isomerization of azobenzene from cis- to trans- and vice versa. I remember learning about that in Organic Chem 40 years ago. I can’t see the phenomenon as much of a storage for photo energy, but maybe that’s where the density issue comes in.


17 posted on 04/16/2014 12:55:19 PM PDT by IronJack
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To: IronJack

IronJack and Lepton were close to the point. Perhaps I can clarify. The “density” that needs to be the focus is the solar flux density - how much energy can be collected and or stored on a given patch of material on a perfect sunny day at solar noon. The magic number is considerably less than 1000 watts/square meter, closer to 500 watts on a clear day, depending upon water vapor absorption in the atmosphere, and the sun’s elevation.

When looking at the numbers, especially the efficiency of photoelectric or thermal storage, solar energy conversion to electricity for base load, or even bulk generation has never made economic sense, but is certainly useful for political purposes. Next to “its for the children” and “widows and orphans”, its been worth billions of dollars to cronies of politicians, and thus billions to politicians who can never be faulted for ignorance is promoting “safe”, “clean”, “free” solar generated electricity.

This author actually once, as an assignment by one of the world’s authorities on solar conversion materials science, did a survey of government land that might be available for construction of solar farms, and learned that even if we had no alternative, we haven’t sufficient land, ignoring endangered plants and animals, to dedicate billions of square meters (a typical 1000 megawatt nuclear plant equivalent would require about 200 million square meters of surface in cloudless desert, not counting storage; remember, the sun’s useful production is during about 6 of twenty four hours).

The typical photovoltaic array one sees on a roof in the West, where the people are often well educated and ignorant, a 12’ x 12’ array, wouldn’t power an old-fashioned incandescent light bulb, but would charge batteries - slowly. Figure an optimistic 10% conversion efficiency on sunny days with low humidity. That suggests about 10 watts per square meter. It probably isn’t half of that, and I’m assuming perfect lossless storage, in case someone really thinks they need a lamp on at night.

Solar energy along highways, for emergency communication, to power intermittent instruments, in space where relatively large arrays can be flimsy and there is no water vapor, has applications. For low quality applications, like preheating water for homes in desert climates and for swimming pools, solar energy has economic applications. But the people who put together the Solyndra project deployed the scam always understanding how to make money from the inevitable bankruptcy.

Even people in Silicon Valley who don’t have a background in solar engineering, but know the semiconductor business spotted the scam immediately, since no one can afford to manufacture low-tech semiconductors in California, let alone in Silicon Valley. Remember, the investors in Solyndra walked away with hundreds of millions of our dollars after the bankruptcy. The two big factories employed thousands of union contractors and tens of millions of dollars of equipment was purchased and installed, never to be used. (This was about the time Toyota couldn’t be threatened into floating the NUMMI plant in Fremont any longer). Solyndra was a success to Obama/Holdren/Chiu cronies, who donated tens of millions to Obama’s campaigns. Solar energy is similar to carbon taxes, a ploy to explain stealing money from a naïve public, whose money they take by force of a now well-armed Internal Revenue Service.


18 posted on 04/16/2014 2:02:17 PM PDT by Spaulding
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To: edpc

Exactly. President Bush said this in his 2000 election campaign and he was right then and the idea is still valid today. Sometime in the future we will achieve true Kardashev Type I status with an energy capability equivalent to the solar insolation on Earth, between 10^16 and 10^17 watts.

But we can’t get there without unfettered use of available energy sources.

Of course, the greenies don’t want us to get there. They want us living in caves, eating turnips and riding in donkey carts (while they eat sushi in luxury, of course).


19 posted on 04/16/2014 5:13:20 PM PDT by samtheman
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To: dhs12345

I would love to see fusion but I don’t see it going anywhere after 60+ years of effort. By all means keep up the effort but don’t count on it delivering. The only proven sustained fusion is in stars. I’m afraid it’s going to stay that way.


20 posted on 04/16/2014 5:15:57 PM PDT by samtheman
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To: samtheman

Bummer. Good point. Frustrating. Because it would solve our energy problems.


21 posted on 04/16/2014 6:05:17 PM PDT by dhs12345
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To: dhs12345

I hope I’m wrong. Fusion would truly make electricity “too cheap to meter”. Actually, that phrase was originally used with fusion in mind and then got misappropriated to fission, where it doesn’t apply.


22 posted on 04/16/2014 10:53:52 PM PDT by samtheman
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To: samtheman
Me too — I hope you/we are wrong. Containment is the issue because of the heat generated. Maybe they could come up with a way “control” the process much like control rods slow down the Fission reaction. Inject the plasma with an inert material that is stable at the high temps. Just a layman's ideas and I am sure that they have already thought of that.

I am not current on the technology other than I heard a few months ago that they were able to produce a net gain of energy. I think that they are shooting high power lasers at the core and igniting the reaction that way.

Another possible improvement: the heat is used to boil water and turn turbines. Maybe they should consider a process that excites electrons in a conductor and eliminate the steam turbine process all together. Maybe something that produces a massive magnetic field and eliminates the heat conversion process — much less heat, no spinning turbines, much more efficient, etc. Steam power is so 19th century. :)

23 posted on 04/17/2014 7:27:04 AM PDT by dhs12345
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To: dhs12345

I know, it was big news about the net gain a few months ago, very close to “ignition”, but the “net gain” was very narrowly defined, measuring the energy of the laser beams themselves versus the energy output of the fusion, and there was a gain if you just looked at that comparison, but it ignored the total electrical power consumption of the laser devices, which was much larger than the fusion output. So there was a breakthrough of sorts but still far away from actual commercial power generation.

But we’ll see. A lot of clever people are working on it.


24 posted on 04/17/2014 3:02:49 PM PDT by samtheman
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To: samtheman

They are still years and years away. If they are successful, the tough part (not that it hasn’t already been tough) will be to build a practical implementation; a working power plant.

But I am crossing my fingers. We are going to need a lot more juice if everyone is going to be driving around in electric cars.


25 posted on 04/17/2014 3:53:16 PM PDT by dhs12345
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