Building sustainable communities, farms, and homes is a global aspiration to face changing climate, growing population, increasing demands and shrinking supplies of Earth’s natural resources. Renewable energy is key, but our ability to provide a steady supply of renewable energy is faced with a grand challenge. The challenge is in our ability to store energy when renewable resources are available to harvest for use when needed. Lithium-based solutions exist, but all the Lithium on Earth is not enough for scaling those solutions. Our group is storing energy in more abundant materials through latent heat, and we are exploring and testing solutions that are scalable and affordable. Latent heat storage is a viable solution to the energy storage problem, but it is not receiving the attention, and current educational systems do not make this science readily available to our future scientists. To break this cycle, we are building a prototype for a complete energy storage kit that concentrates solar energy, heat our AlSi material, and store its energy in its latent heat at 577degrees Celsius. This prototype can demonstrate how energy storage happens (by storing direct solar energy), and how that energy can be used, most importantly away from the sun, to heat a cup of water and light LED bulb or charge a cell phone. Our aim is to develop a complete educational module and build as many prototypes of it as the funds allow, then distribute for public schools in California, and hopefully beyond. We truly believe that exposing our young scientists to wide and different technologies and informing them of our grand challenges is key, and can bring excitement and new ideas into the research world.
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