A team of MIT researchers announced they’ve created a new transparent polymer film that absorbs and stores the sun’s energy and releases that energy on demand in the form of heat. The film could be used to line windows or clothing, providing an eco-friendly heat source in winter and even potentially de-ice car windshields on frosty days.
The film works because it contains special molecules that can move into a “charged” position when exposed to sunlight. A simple trigger, for example a change in temperature, causes them to change back to their original shape, a process which releases bursts of heat. The team claims the film can store solar energy for an indefinite amount of time.
This isn’t the first time researchers have created a chemically-based solar energy storage material, or solar thermal fuel, but past efforts have used liquid solutions rather than a solid film. The new approach will make the material much more portable and give it a wider range of potential applications outside the lab.
While there are dozens, maybe hundreds of potential industrial and consumer applications for this material, it’s not ready to hit the market just yet. The scientists are still working to make it more transparent — right now it has an unattractive yellowish tinge — and they also want to increase the amount of heat it can emit.
Images via MIT