Temperature is a measure of the average hotness of an object. The hotter an object, the higher its temperature. As the temperature is raised, the atoms and molecules in an object move faster. The molecules in hot water move faster than the molecules in cold water. Remember that the heat energy stored in an object depends on both the temperature and the amount of the substance. A smaller amount of water will have less heat energy than a larger amount of water at the same temperature.
Increasing the temperature of a large body of water is one way to store heat energy for later use. A large container filled with salt water, called brine, may be used to absorb heat energy during the day when it is warm. This energy will be held in the salt water until the night when it is cooler. This stored heat energy can be released at night to warm a house or building. This is one way to store the sun’s heat energy until it is needed.
Solar ponds are used to store energy from the sun. Temperatures close to 100°C (212°F) have been achieved in solar ponds. Solar ponds contain a layer of fresh water above a layer of salt water. Because the salt water is heavier, it remains at the bottom of the pond-even as it gets quite hot. A black plastic bottom helps absorb solar energy from sunlight. The water on top serves to insulate and trap the heat in the pond.
In a fresh water pond, as the water on the bottom is heated from sunlight, the hot water becomes lighter and rises to the top of the pond. This convection or movement of hot water to the top tends to carry away excess heat. However, in a salt water pond, there is no convection so heat is trapped. In Israel a series of salt water, solar ponds were developed around the Dead Sea. The heat stored in these solar ponds has been used to run turbines and generate electricity.
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