Innovation That Matters

Material can store sunlight and release it later as heat

Work & Lifestyle

Researchers at MIT have developed a new material that can store solar energy through a chemical reaction.

Solar power is the most successful example of sunlight being converted into useful energy and we have seen a number of projects using this technology on a small scale such as Repurpose school bags. Now, researchers at MIT have developed a new material that can store solar energy during the day to be released later as heat.


The material is a transparent polymer film, which can be applied to surfaces including clothing or windows. When the film is exposed to the sun it triggers a chemical reaction in the material and the chemical compounds are altered at the molecular level. This chemical state can remain indefinitely, meaning the energy is stored without diminishing, as heat otherwise would. The energy can then be activated as heat through a light, heat or electric trigger, which would cause the material to return to its initial molecular structure, releasing the stored energy.

The chemical reaction can release a temperature burst of up to 10 degrees. The research team envision the material being used to enable clothing to release heat at night, or melt away ice on a windscreen. What other applications are there for the material?



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