After developing a system that captures solar energy that can be stored for up to 18 years, scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have recently come up with an innovative solution for electronic devices to make use of this system to recharge on demand, regardless of weather conditions. Despite it still being in the early stages of development, this discovery is a huge step forward in the solar energy storage field.
Imagine an electronic device that can recharge itself using solar energy at any time of the day. Thanks to breakthrough technology developed by scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, this scenario could soon become reality.
In 2017, they created an avant-garde system that is able to capture solar energy and store it for up to 18 years. Now, they have found a way that allows technological devices to make use of this stored energy autonomously. No matter the weather conditions, time of day, season, and geographical location, the system can produce electricity when it is connected to a minuscule thermoelectric generator – developed by colleagues at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University – allowing electronics to recharge independently using solar energy on demand.
The discovery marks a long-awaited turning point in solar energy. One of the main flaws of this renewable source is its dependency on sunlight. Generally, standard solar batteries nowadays can hold a charge for one to five days, making it possible to generate electricity at night or on cloudy days. While solar panels that are operational at night are nothing new, the long-term solar energy storage system created in Sweden is a huge step forward in the renewables field. This technology is based on a molecule of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen which has the ability to change shape when it comes in contact with sunlight, turning into an energy-rich isomer (a molecule made up of the same atoms but arranged together in a different way) that can be stored in liquid form and release energy in the form of heat as needed. After years of research, the Swedish scientists were able to perfect the system, making it possible to store energy for nearly two decades.
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So far, the thermoelectric generator developed in China that allows electronics to self-charge has been integrated into headphones, smartwatches, and telephones. Despite it still generating only small amounts of electricity, the promising results increase hopes among the scientific community that this innovative technology will eventually replace batteries and solar cells altogether. Considering the benefits of renewable energy and the importance of relying on these sources for our transition to net-zero, carrying out research in this field and continued investments in breakthrough technologies such as the one developed in Sweden is certainly a winning strategy for a cleaner future.