New ‘thermal battery’ soaks up heat energy like a sponge

January 11, 2018 by  
Filed under Green

Scientists at MIT have created a new unconventional material that is highly effective at storing and releasing heat energy — and could be used as a battery. Called AzoPMA, the new plastic-like polymer is capable of holding 100 times as much thermal energy as water. If further developed, a thermal battery which stores and releases heat as energy is needed could revolutionize solar energy , much as powerful traditional batteries have transformed the smart phone and electric car industries. Research on AzoPMA was led by Dr. Dhandapani Venkataraman, a chemist at the University of Massachusetts , and recently published in the journal Nature . The material was given its name in reference to its azobenzene-based poly(methacrylate) composition. AzoPMA is able to hold so much thermal energy because it switches between two conformations, or shapes, depending on its heat . When the material is heated, molecules within take their high-energy form, which is effective at storing thermal energy . When it is cooled, they return to their low-energy form, which then releases heat energy as needed. Related: South Australia to host world’s largest thermal solar plant The potential for thermal battery power is seemingly endless. “Thermal batteries today are where electrical batteries were a century ago,” MIT professor Dr. Jeffrey Grossman, who has led similar thermal battery research , told NBC News . “There are exciting applications we’re only starting to understand.” Venkatarman sees this feature as being especially useful in off-the grid locations. “Imagine when go camping, you’d be charging the molecules while you are hiking, then you’d discharge them to cook your dinner,” he said . AzoPMA could also be used as a non-burning material in solar-thermal ovens, which would reduce the risk of health damage from fumes on stoves common in rural areas, as a component of large household batteries, or spread out in small pieces to melt snow after a storm, without the need for electricity. Via NBC News Images via MIT and Nature

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New ‘thermal battery’ soaks up heat energy like a sponge

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