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  • The sun puts out a lot of energy, more of it hits the earth in an hour than humankind

  • could use in a year And we're really not taking advantage of it, the US got less than

  • 1% of its electricity from solar power in 2016.

  • If we could get that number higher, we could run our homes, cars, toaster ovens, all with

  • zero emissions.

  • That's the dream anyway, some perfect future with limitless free energy.

  • So what's in the near future for this future?

  • Where does solar power go from here?

  • One of the big problems is what do we do when there's no sun?

  • Like on cloudy days.

  • Or at night time.

  • If we're going to go all solar, we need a way to store the sun's energy.Usually,

  • we'd combine solar panels with rechargeable batteries, but batteries are pricey and they

  • kinda suck.

  • So researchers in Sweden are working on how to catch the sun's energy in a bottle, or

  • at least in a little tube.

  • Those crazy Swedes developed a liquid with an intriguing property.

  • The molecules in the liquid react when exposed to light and become isomers; meaning they

  • still have the same makeup, but in a different arrangement than normal.

  • This new arrangement stores energy, and when a catalyst is introduced, it shifts the molecules

  • back to their usual structure and releases the stored energy as heat, which could be

  • used to warm homes at night or generate electricity, provided enough heat is released.

  • Recently the researchers switched from expensive ruthenium to the more common elements carbon,

  • hydrogen, and nitrogen to build their molecules; this makes the process cheaper and easier.

  • On top of that, they've actually increased their storage capacity by a hundredfold!

  • Ok so... they could only store 0.01% of the energy that hit it before... and a hundredfold

  • increase means just 1.1%, but still, progress!

  • Storage isn't the only issue.

  • The panels themselves are also expensive

  • If we could make the solar panels cheaper that would go a long way to creating a competitive

  • source of energy compared to fossil fuels and other renewables.

  • 90% of photovoltaic cells today use crystalline silicon, making them expensive to manufacture

  • and the process creates toxic by-products.

  • But an entirely different approach does exist: Using perovskites.

  • Perovskites have a crystal structure of tetrahedral arrangements of atoms and molecules, and depending

  • on which elements are used they have different properties.

  • They could be superconductive, magnetoresistive, or photovoltaic.

  • Solar cells that use them are cheap and easy to assemble and could now be on par with silicon

  • cells in terms of energy efficiency.

  • But you may have noticed every rooftop in sight isn't covered in perovskites.

  • That's because they have a fatal flaw: the cells are unstable, and extreme light levels,

  • temperature, and humidity cause them to decompose.

  • Even normal weather can destroy them, which is bad because you typically see a lot of

  • weather outside, the place where solar panels need to be.

  • As a result perovskite cells only function for several months, compared to silicon cells

  • which can last more than 25 years.

  • But hey, a decade ago perovskite cells only lasted a few minutes.

  • Again, progress!

  • Scientists are constantly coming up with new and ingenious ways to make the sun do our

  • bidding, and these are just a couple of things currently in the works that show promise.

  • Though we don't use much of it now, breakthroughs and innovation could lead to a world powered

  • cleanly and sustainably by sunlight.

  • The future of solar power looks bright.

  • There are crazier ideas for solar like putting panels in space and beaming electricity to

  • Earth, but a massive project like that would be insanely expensive.

  • They're fun to ponder though, so Trace covers some far our geoengineering projects here.

  • Do you have a favorite renewable energy technology that's not quite ready yet?

  • Let us know in the comments, so I can see how many of you say thorium reactors, subscribe

  • for more, and thanks for watching Seeker.

The sun puts out a lot of energy, more of it hits the earth in an hour than humankind

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Storing the Sun's Energy in Liquid Could Change Solar Forever

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    joey joey に公開 2021 年 04 月 13 日
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