Scientists have developed a material that can be used to harvest electricity from the Sun’s heat, paving the way for generating cheaper solar power on cloudy days and at nighttime. The innovation is an important step for putting solar heat-to-electricity generation in direct cost competition with fossil fuels, researchers said. “Storing solar energy as heat can already be cheaper than storing energy via batteries, so the next step is reducing the cost of generating electricity from the Sun’s heat with the added benefit of zero greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kenneth Sandhage, a professor at Purdue University in the US. Concentrated solar power plants convert solar energy into electricity by using mirrors or lenses to concentrate a lot of light onto a small area, which generates heat that is transferred to a molten salt. Ceramic–metal composites for heat exchangers in concentrated solar power plants. Image: Purdue Heat from the molten salt is then transferred to a “working” fluid, supercritical carbon dioxide, that expands and works to spin a turbine for generating electricity. To make solar-powered electricity cheaper, the turbine engine would need to generate even more electricity for the same amount of heat, which means the engine needs to run […]

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