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Solar energy is popular, particularly thanks to photoelectric panels that absorb photons (light) and release electrons (electricity.) That’s good news when the Sun is in sight, but in the dark the energy is only available through the use of batteries (usually). A new technology has been developed that uses photo-chemical reactions. A special molecule (a photoswitchable chemical) absorbs the light and stores its energy thanks to chemical isomerization. Skipping the long words, light comes in changes a chemical, which then can store that energy for up to a month, and then releases it on demand by passing the chemical through a catalyst. Store sunshine. Tap it when necessary. Also possibly ship it around, distribute it, use a little or a lot, and don’t worry about short power outages. The process converts light to heat, not directly to electricity; so, it may not power your car without some inefficiencies. “Molecular solar thermal (MOST) energy storage systems” are, however, an attractive alternative and yet another renewable energy application that diminishes the need for fossil fuels.

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