ASU researchers looking for new ways to store renewable energy resources

Experts at ASU’s Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery are diving into research that could help find more sustainable and cleaner energy sources to not only help fuel the earth’s growing population but cut down on greenhouse emissions. Based on new studies from the school, technologies around light-gathering semiconductors and catalytic materials, such as various natural metals, can help produce clean and efficient fuel.

“In this particular work we’ve been developing systems that integrate light capture and conversion technologies with chemical-based energy storage strategies. That’s where catalysis becomes extremely important. It’s the chemistry of controlling both the selectivity of reactions and the overall energy requirements for driving those transformations,” Gary Moore, assistant professor in ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences and the lead author of the study, said in a statement.

In the new study, he and other researchers explore how to improve the efficiency and performance of hybrid technologies and in turn better understand how to prime them for realistic commercial production.

Moore and team are looking for ways to supplant fossil fuel sources with hydrogen and reduced carbon forms, creating a broad range of carbon materials that we rely heavily on, including fuels and plastics. The team has been developing systems that integrate light capture and technologies to convert different resources with chemical-based energy storage. Solar energy is used to drive chemical reactions, creating fuels that store the sun’s energy inside chemical bonds. And it just so happens that in Arizona we have an abundance of that main resource: the sun.

Solar energy adoption has picked up steam in recent years, especially here in Arizona. The demand for renewable resources, including solar energy, is rapidly growing. The United States added more solar power than any other type of renewable in the first quarter of 2018, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), while the world solar market grew by 29 percent in the same year.

But while the demand is growing and the resource is plentiful, it comes down to storage, another issue researchers want to solve. Renewables like sunlight and wind power, while abundant, are not always available. Moore is looking to find solutions to store these resources so they are more readily available for future use.

Nick Esquer

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