|Researchers made a device that can gather and store solar energy / Photo by: SFC9394 via Wikimedia Commons|
When you talk of an (almost) infinite source of energy, you only need to look up during a particularly sunny day to tell where it is. Solar energy has long occupied experts and scientists on how to harness it most efficiently, especially now that we are veering away from total dependence on fossil fuel that has been proven to be harmful to the environment and will not last forever.
But what is preventing us from fully utilizing this clean and abundant energy source is the fact that we can only get so much sunlight per day, and not much even during cloudy or stormy days. So today, we have solar panels that harvest the sun’s rays and convert them to electrical energy and specialized batteries where this converted energy is stored. This system, while effective, is not the most efficient and cost-effective to be relied upon to power the world’s remote places.
That could change with the development of the solar flow battery.
According to a report posted on the website sciencedaily.com, a team of scientists from the United States and Saudi Arabia has found a way to combine a solar cell and a battery into a single device, which they have dubbed as the solar flow battery. Basically, it soaks up sunlight, converts it to chemical energy, and then stores it within itself for later use. The research, which was published in the journal Chem, has the potential to provide electricity to far-off places in the world where there is a lack of existing energy infrastructures.
Song Jin, a professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated, “Compared with separated solar energy conversion and electrochemical energy storage devices, combining the functions of separated devices into a single, integrated device could be a more efficient, scalable, compact, and cost-effective approach to utilizing solar energy.”
According to the research paper, the device has three functionalities. First, it can convert sunlight to electricity right away if energy is already needed. Second, it can harvest sunlight during the day and store it as chemical energy for later use. Third, it can also be recharged by being plugged into a wall power outlet.