We're working on a new kind of solar field
that's based on this molecule spinning around here.
And what it can do is it can store energy from the sun
internally and release that energy later as heat on demand.
It works in some ways like a rechargeable battery.
It can be charged and reused many times over.
In this case, the charging occurs simply by exposure
So when the sun strikes this molecule,
it undergoes a reaction that transforms it into a higher
energy state, or charged state.
And this particular molecule is a special case.
It can do this reaction in a reversible manner
with no degradation.
That means that once transformed by the sun,
it stays stable making it safe and transportable.
Then, using a simple catalyst, the molecule
can be made to go back into its original state.
And as it goes back into its original state,
it releases that stored energy as heat.
Now this makes it essentially a rechargeable heat battery.
But we wanted to know is why this particular case is unique?
Why it's so stable and does not degrade over time
unlike other molecules that have been tried before?
So we carried out quantum mechanical calculations
in order to understand the heat release mechanism.
And what we found was quite surprising.
As the molecule proceeds along the reaction pathway
from the higher energy state back to the original state,
it was thought to have only a single barrier,
but the calculations revealed the presence
of this intermediate state, which
means it has two barriers along the pathway instead of one,
and that has important implications
for how the fuel is stabilized.
And what we find is that the relative barrier
heights along this path play a crucial role
in its functionality.
Using this knowledge, we're now working
to develop further improvements in the fuels,
such as the use of cheaper materials
and also increase storage densities.