A new transparent polymer film developed at MIT can soak up heat and then release it on demand at a later time.
This material could have wide ranging applications when you think about houses, clothes, or even vehicles absorbing solar energy and then releasing that heat on demand when things get cold.
The key is a molecule that can remain stable in either of two different configurations. When exposed to sunlight, the energy of the light kicks the molecules into their “charged” configuration, and they can stay that way for long periods. Then, when triggered by a very specific temperature or other stimulus, the molecules snap back to their original shape, giving off a burst of heat in the process.
The team of researchers used a kind of molecule known as azobenzenes that when given a short blast of heat, can then release far more.
While the polymer film is already highly transparent, the researchers are working to make it even more transparent in an effort to focus on things like windshield applications.
Right now, the film is capable of releasing heat about 10 degrees Celsius above the surrounding temperature but the hope is for it to eventually be able to blast out 20 degrees Celsius of heat in the future.