Most conventional solar energy systems rely on using sunlight immediately as a power source, and are hindered by not being able to use that solar energy at night or when cloudy conditions exist.
The innovation the UT Arlington team developed is an all-vanadium photo-electrochemical flow cell. It allows for efficient and large-scale solar energy storage even at nighttime.
Team leder Fuqiang Liu, an assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department, commented:
“This research has a chance to rewrite how we store and use solar power. As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the ability to store solar energy and use it as a renewable alternative provides a sustainable solution to the problem of energy shortage. It also can effectively harness the inexhaustible energy from the sun.”
The team is currently working on a larger prototype.
Khosrow Behbehani, dean of the College of Engineering, said:
“Dr. Liu and his colleagues are working to help us shape a more sustainable future and are taking innovative steps to improve our ability to harness and use one of the larger sources of energy available to us – the sun.”
According to lead author Dong Liu, a major drawback of current solar technology is the limitation on storing energy under dark conditions.
“We have demonstrated simultaneously reversible storage of both solar energy and electrons in the cell,” Dong Liu said. “Release of the stored electrons under dark conditions continues solar energy storage, thus allowing for unintermittent storage around the clock.”
The authors write in the paper’s abstract:
“Colossal solar energy conversion and storage studies using photoelectrochemical cells (PECs) have been undertaken in the past four decades; however, how to efficiently utilize solar energy despite the intermittent nature of sunlight still remains a challenge. In this paper, a WO3/TiO2 hybrid photoelectrode was coupled with our newly developed all-vanadium photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) with the aim of implementing photoelectrochemical solar energy conversion and storage.”