H. Peter Vollhardt and collaborators at the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered molecules composed of organic material and metal that store sunlight in the form of usable thermal energy.
The direct conversion of solar photons (tiny particles of light) to power the planet is one of the most important challenges of this century. Although many efforts focus on photovoltaics, the approach taken by these researchers follows a relatively unexplored path: Trapping solar energy in the form of high-energy chemical bonds using light.
Because these molecules store absorbed sunlight as heat, they can use the energy at a later time and place. This strategy has several key advantages over traditional approaches: