Innovation That Matters

Thermal battery

Solar-powered thermal batteries release heat on demand

Work & Lifestyle

Using a phase change polymer, researchers have developed a thermal battery that helps solve the age-old problem of how to store heat from the sun.

If successfully scaled for commercial use, a new thermal battery that has been developed by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst could revolutionize the way heat is accessed in rural and off-grid locations. Made from a chemical composite called AzoPMA that combines fatty acids with a light-activated compound, the new phase change material does away with the need for extensive, and expensive, insulation. Most phase change materials lose heat quickly and unpredictably after being altered.

AzoPMA, on the other hand, is capable of storing energy for significantly longer periods of time, with the heat being released when a light source activates the material. Able to store around 200 joules of energy per gram, AzoPMA provides such significant energy density that it could be used for cooking, space heating and drying crops. The research team says that a number of companies are already interested in the material and work will continue to increase the battery’s efficiency and temperature range.

Doing more with less is helping to drive forward innovation in energy capture and use, with recent examples including a system of pipes, chillers and solar panels that can be retrofitted to help buildings use their own thermal mass to reduce overall energy use and a new paint that uses graphene for improved in-home insulation. What spaces in everyday personal life have yet to take advantage of renewable energy options?




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