Energy-storing solar cell is getting shape

June 10, 2018 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Storing solar energy is one of the central challenges of the energy transition. In addition to classic solutions such as batteries, creative chemical concepts for energy storage open up completely new opportunities. For instance, it is possible to combine the conversion and storage of solar energy in a single molecule by intramolecular reactions. This could be the basis for the construction of energy-storing solar cells. Researchers at the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) are currently working on this issue in two research projects.

Electricity from renewable energy sources such as sun or wind is only available when the wind blows and the sun shines. If little electricity is needed at this time, it is very difficult to store the remaining electricity. New concepts are in demand - and the researchers at FAU in the Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy are focusing on chemical concepts for energy storage.

In two joint projects, the scientists are looking for new ideas for molecular solar energy storage and are investigating molecules and processes that enable both efficient storage and controlled energy release. It is even conceivable that the stored chemical energy could be directly converted into electrical energy. A vision that would enable the construction of an "energy-storing solar cell".

The research work is based on the so-called "norbornadiene quadricyclane storage system". The substances norbornadiene (NBD) and quadricyclane (QC) are hydrocarbons and have long been discussed by experts as potential candidates for the storage of solar energy: Under the influence of light, the molecule norbornadiene can transform into quadricyclane in a reaction within the molecule. This achieves an energy density equivalent to that of a high-performance battery. Because of this property, quadricyclane is also known as "solar fuel".


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