Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Storing Solar Heat

PostedNovember 26, 2017

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LEDE: Researchers have engineered a new chemical that stores solar heat, and releases it when needed. It could one day warm your clothes and de-ice your windshield.

Randy Atkins: The Sun’s heat usually needs to be used where it’s collected, because it isn’t easily stored. But MIT engineering professor Jeff Grossman, is preserving warmth through chemistry.

Jeffrey Grossman: We’ve designed a new kind of molecule that, when the sunlight strikes it, it twists around a little bit in such a way that it’s storing heat and it doesn’t let go of the heat until you need it.

Randy Atkins: Grossman says the molecule can be made into solid materials of various sizes and colors that release bursts of heat when triggered by voltage, a certain light frequency, or a small heat pulse…and could be integrated into things like a car windshield or a jacket.

Jeffrey Grossman: When I want a little bit of warmth, I can simply trigger it and the jacket will heat up.

Randy Atkins: Grossman says the “solar heat battery” could be recharged thousands of times, and easily made through…

Jeffrey Grossman: …a synthesis process that is cheap and scalable and we could be making tons of it.

Randy Atkins: With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.