Researchers Use Supercomputer to Design New Molecule That Captures Solar Energy

Researchers Use Supercomputer to Design New Molecule That Captures Solar Energy

Iwastheone shares some news from Sweden’s Linköping University:
The Earth receives many times more energy from the sun than we humans can use. This energy is absorbed by solar energy facilities, but one of the challenges of solar energy is to store it efficiently, such that the energy is available when the sun is not shining. This led scientists at Linköping University to investigate the possibility of capturing and storing solar energy in a new molecule.

“Our molecule can take on two different forms: a parent form that can absorb energy from sunlight, and an alternative form in which the structure of the parent form has been changed and become much more energy-rich, while remaining stable. This makes it possible to store the energy in sunlight in the molecule efficiently”, says Bo Durbeej, professor of computational physics in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology at LinkÃping University, and leader of the study…

It’s common in research that experiments are done first and theoretical work subsequently confirms the experimental results, but in this case the procedure was reversed. Bo Durbeej and his group work in theoretical chemistry, and conduct calculations and simulations of chemical reactions. This involves advanced computer simulations, which are performed on supercomputers at the National Supercomputer Centre, NSC, in Linköping. The calculations showed that the molecule the researchers had developed would undergo the chemical reaction they required, and that it would take place extremely fast, within 200 femtoseconds. Their colleagues at the Research Centre for Natural Sciences in Hungary were then able to build the molecule, and perform experiments that confirmed the theoretical prediction…
“Most chemical reactions start in a condition where a molecule has high energy and subsequently passes to one with a low energy. Here, we do the opposite — a molecule that has low energy becomes one with high energy. We would expect this to be difficult, but we have shown that it is possible for such a reaction to take place both rapidly and efficiently”, says Bo Durbeej.

The researchers will now examine how the stored energy can be released from the energy-rich form of the molecule in the best way…

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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