We have more technologies in development than science fiction has ever thought of, with stuff ranging from 3D printed limbs to pee-powered socks that generate electricity. Well, how would you feel if you could de-ice your windshield with a single button, or get a boost of heat directly from your clothing? Soon, we’ll be able to do those things, as scientist invented a new material that stores and releases solar heat.
- The heat is stored as a chemical change, instead of in the form of energy
- Heat release will be done with a small jolt of heat, electricity, or light
- The type of material is called a solar thermal fuel, or STF for short
- A transparent film is the form the material is going to take
- The manufacturing process will be very simple and scalable
A team of researchers led by MIT professor Jeffrey Grossman was behind the discovery, and they have also worked before on similar projects.
The material will take the form of a very thin polymer sheet, which will be able to store up energy from the sun during the day, and then release it in the form of heat when it’s needed.
Generally, regardless of how well insulated a container is, it’s impossible to maintain heat there indefinitely. It isn’t, however, for the new polymer.
It works by making use of a molecule that has the ability to remain stable in two different states.
The first state is when it’s exposed to sunlight, as it charges up and stays like that for long periods of time.
The second state is when the molecule is in contact with a specific temperature or other stimuli, as the molecules revert to their original state and disperse a burst of heat when doing so.
As I said before, the team has worked on similar projects in the past, the difference being that they managed to create a similar type of material, but in liquid form, as it was much more difficult to make it solid. Eventually they did, mostly for an increased applicability.
So far, there are only two limitations to the project, and the team behind it is working on improving both of them.
First of all, the sheet still has a slightly yellowish tinge to it, which has to go if the material is going to be used on windshields, which is a fact, since BMW has already showed interest.
The second one is that the burst emitted by the material is currently only about 10 degrees over the surrounding temperature, and the team is going to bring that up to 20.