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Researchers from the University of Houston have reported a new device that can both efficiently capture solar energy and store it until it is needed, offering promise for applications ranging from power generation to distillation and desalination.

Unlike solar panels and solar cells, which rely on photovoltaic technology for the direct generation of electricity, the hybrid device captures heat from the sun and stores it as thermal energy. It addresses some of the issues that have stalled wider-scale adoption of solar power, suggesting an avenue for using solar energy around-the-clock, despite limited sunlight hours, cloudy days and other constraints.

The work, described in a paper published Wednesday in Joule, combines molecular energy storage and latent heat storage to produce an integrated harvesting and storage device for potential 24/7 operation. The researchers report a harvesting efficiency of 73% at small-scale operation and as high as 90% at large-scale operation.

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Category: Science