An azobenzene-functionalized carbon nanotube molecule, which can store solar energy indefinitely (Image: Grossman/Kolpak)
While solar panels are very useful at converting the sun’s rays into electricity for immediate use, the storage of that energy for later use is ... well, it’s still being figured out. The energy can be used to charge batteries, for instance, but that charge will wear off over time. Instead, scientists have been looking at thermo-chemical storage of solar energy. Last year, researchers from MIT discovered that the chemical fulvalene diruthenium was quite an effective storage medium. Unfortunately, the ruthenium element that it contains is rare and expensive. Now, however, one of those same scientists has created a new storage material that is cheaper, and is able to store much more energy.