- New Molecule Works as Heat Battery
- A new compound recently discovered by researchers at MIT can repeatedly store and release thermal energy without any degradation. The discovery could lead to a wide range of energy storage and retrieval solutions.A paper (abstracted here) in the latest edition of Angewandte Chemie, submitted by an MIT team under the direction of Professor Jeffrey Grossman and funded by the NSF and MIT's Energy Initiative, describes the discovery of a new compound whose molecules can repeatedly store and release thermal energy without degradation.
When heated, the substance—fulvalene diruthenium—assumes a new, highly stable shape that persists upon cooling, and—when the molecule is reheated or exposed to a catalyst—reverts to release stored energy.
Fulvalene diruthenium appears more energetically efficient than current methods used to store solar heat, such as mass pools of molten salt. Meanwhile, the compound's ability to store heat long-term, then release enough heat (up to 200 degrees C) to both continually trigger its own exothermic behavior (in effect, working as a fuel) and to perform serious work (e.g., superheating water to produce steam) offers big benefits that engineers can exploit in creating a wide range of energy storage and retrieval solutions.
The current hitch is price: The relatively simple molecule depends for its behavior on properties of the rare element ruthenium. The MIT team, however, is now undertaking a second phase of research to determine if other, lower-cost molecules exhibit similar behavior, and whether these can be used to synthesize compounds with similar properties.