A technology being developed in South Australia holds out the prospect of being able to store solar energy in the form of liquid or gas fuel, as an alternative to battery storage. Researchers at Flinders University, Adelaide, in collaboration with a number of international institutions, have converted solar energy directly into chemical energy in the form of methane and methanol.
The process uses dynamic nano-clusters, which consist of a specific number of gold atoms that interact catalytically with molecules of the subject gas in the presence of UV light. The exact conditions of the process and the identity of the subject gas are at present a commercial secret. The team has built a lab-scaled device at the university and have been testing its effectiveness using artificial ultraviolet light. Although it is still in the process of being scaled up, researchers say it has potential for industrial, commercial and domestic applications.