We know of two ways – convert sun light into electricity and into heat. The former is more inefficient, the latter is more leakage prone – i.e. it has to be used immediately or the energy gotten in the form of heat is lost.
MIT now has found another way of transforming solar energy: using chemical reactions. That is, the sun light is absorbed by a chemical, the energy is stored (by the elements going to higher orbits) and then it is released later in the form of heat.
Two things that stand out in this new way are: heat is “storable” without any leakage. The chemical after absorbing the heat can remain like that for years! And secondly, the process is completely irreversible – the chemical can come back to its original state after heat dissipation. Two good, interesting characteristics. Nice discovery!!
However, the glitch – the chemical is made of ruthenium and is quite expensive. But, what scientists found out is the process, structural characteristics – both the statics and dynamics that will help them find similar, cheaper molecules (by running it through the database of millions of chemicals). I hope they do find one!
I find one more glitch – it is like a heavy battery that needs to be taken here and there, unlike the other two solar energy transformers. Also, the molecule should take in energy only in the form of sun light – and not in the form of heat – lest the dissipated heat will be absorbed again (uh, oh! what kind of a thing is that?)
This is one example of funding a research that will make people’s lives (and that of environment’s as well) better. Will see this happening in the planet’s largest democracy?