Common solar energy systems today are unable to use the generated energy at night or in cloudy conditions. A University of Texas at Arlington materials science and engineering team has developed a new energy cell that stores large-scale solar energy even when it is dark.

The UT Arlington engineers created an all-vanadium photo-electrochemical flow cell that allows for efficient and large-scale solar energy storage at nighttime or in cloudy conditions. The team is now working on a larger prototype.

“This research has a chance to rewrite how we store and use solar power,” said Fuqiang Liu, an assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department who led the research team. “As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the ability to store solar energy and use it as a renewable alternative provides a sustainable solution to the problem of energy shortage.”

The researchers demonstrated simultaneously reversible storage of both solar energy and electrons in the cell.

The work is a product of the 2013 National Science Foundation $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development grant awarded to Liu to improve the way solar energy is captured, stored, and transmitted for use.