Chemists Discover Molecules to Harness Solar Energy

Research by a Danish graduate student may pave the way for a breakthrough method of capturing energy from sunlight.

Mnet 120704 Solarchemist

Research by a Danish graduate student may pave the way for a breakthrough method of capturing energy from sunlight. Saving sunshine for a rainy day is not trivial. Now a University of Copenhagen student has managed a breakthrough on the way to non-toxic and non-polluting molecules suitable for storing climate neutral solar energy. ( Jakob Helbig/ University of Copenhagen)

Chemists at the University of Copenhagen are attempting to develop molecules that can harvest solar energy and release it on demand.

Their efforts, however, largely stalled over the past year. Research showed that molecules capable of capturing energy could not store it over time, while those with greater storage capacity failed to capture sufficient energy.

Anders Bo Skov, who's studying for his master's degree, reports in the journal Chemistry - A European Journal that he pioneered a more stable chemical using four synthesis steps. A kilogram of the new molecules can capture enough solar energy to boil three-quarters of a liter of water in three minutes.

Although the material can't release the captured solar energy on demand, the project's director considers it a breakthrough and is confident that further research will produce dramatic energy discoveries.

Scientists also pointed out that the process doesn't release carbon dioxide or produce toxic byproducts.

"We know which path to take in order to succeed," said Mogens Brondsted, chief of the university's Center for Exploitation of Solar Energy.

More in Chemical Processing