Video: MIT Researcher Explains New "Third Way" Solar Innovation

We all know photovoltaics and solar thermal. Now MIT researchers have made a breakthrough in a new form of solar power.

We tend to think of solar power as coming in two possible forms: photovoltaics, which convert sunlight into electricity, and solar thermal systems, which use the sun's heat to warm water or a home, or which can be concentrated on a fixed spot to boil water or oil and turn a turbine, thereby generating power.

Of course, the sun's energy could theoretically be used in any number of ways. In fact, most of the forms of energy we recognize are, in some way, "solar" power. This includes coal and oil, which as fossil fuels contain ages' worth of the sun's energy accumulated as rich carbon over time. The same goes wind power, as heat from the sun is what drives wind currents.

Recently there have been some exciting advances in one decades-old idea for capturing and utilizing the sun's energy, thanks to a team of MIT researchers lead by Jeffrey Grossman. The so-called "thermo-chemical approach" is described by MIT News Office's David Chandler like so:

"solar energy is captured in the configuration of certain molecules which can then release the energy on demand to produce usable heat. And unlike conventional solar-thermal systems, which require very effective insulation and even then gradually let the heat leak away, the heat-storing chemicals can remain stable for years.


Basically, the team has discovered this incredible molecule: fulvalene diruthenium. That cute little molecule (pictured on the left) will change its shape when it absorbs heat and, later, with the help of a still-to-be-determined calalyst, will release the heat and snap back to its original shape.

Here's a video that probably describes the process better than I do:


Grossman says this of the thermo-chemical approach: takes many of the advantages of solar-thermal energy, but stores the heat in the form of a fuel. It’s reversible, and it’s stable over a long term. You can use it where you want, on demand. You could put the fuel in the sun, charge it up, then use the heat, and place the same fuel back in the sun to recharge.


There are still a few significant sticking points—ruthenium, one of the elements in the molecule, is rare and prohibitively expensive, so they're going to have to figure out a different molecule that will perform the same basic task. But that seems possible. The big advance announced here is that the concept was proven. This molecule “is the wrong material," Grossman said, "but it shows it can be done.”


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Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

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The Planet

An anonymous White House official claims President Trump cruelly limited Hispanic immigrants in their new book, "A Warning."

The book, to be released on November 19, gives an alleged insider account of the Trump White House and paints a picture of the president as a chaotic man who lacks the mental and moral acumen required for the job.

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via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

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Yad Vashem

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Sarah Yanai and Yossi Mor introduced Melpomeni Dina (nee Gianopoulou) to their almost 40 family members, all decedents of the Mordechai family, the family of seven that Dina and her two sisters hid during WWII. "There are no words to describe this feeling," Dina told the Jeruselum Post. "It is very emotional for us to be together again."

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