MIT scientists have developed a material that can absorb solar energy, store and release it on demand to produce heat. Made from a film of polymer, the material could be used to used to tailor cold climate garments that charge up during the day and keep you pleasantly warm in the evening.
The polymer weave absorbs energy from the sun's rays and stores it through chemical reactions within a transparent film. The material contains certain molecules that move into a "charged position" when exposed to sunlight.
Storing energy in a chemical form is desirable as the compounds are stable enough to allow the user to draw on the reserves at their own discretion. The energy from the material can be released with widely available catalysts. For example, the heat stored in a solar-charged jacket can be released when it's subjected to a powerful flash of light or when exposed to an electrical current.
The team claims the polymer can heat up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can store solar energy for an indefinite amount of time.
If applied to clothing, the sun-storing material could benefit everyone from athletes or cold-weather workers, as well as regular fashionistas living in chilly environments.
Researchers say the film is easy to produce, in a two step process. They are looking to apply the energy-harvesting film to materials and products like clothing, window glass and industrial products.