Demonstration of an azobenzene derivative based solar thermal energy storage system
Journal article, 2019
Molecules capable of reversible storage of solar energy have recently attracted increasing interest, and are often referred to as molecular solar thermal energy storage (MOST) systems. Azobenzene derivatives have great potential as an active MOST candidate. However, an operating lab scale experiment including solar energy capture/storage and release has still not been demonstrated. In the present work, a liquid azobenzene derivative is tested comprehensively for this purpose. The system features several attractive properties, such as a long energy storage half-life (40 h) at room temperature, as well as an excellent robustness demonstrated by optically charging and discharging the molecule over 203 cycles without any sign of degradation (total operation time of 23 h). Successful measurements of solar energy storage under simulated sunlight in a microfluidic chip device have been achieved. The identification of two heterogeneous catalyst systems during testing enabled the construction of a fixed bed flow reactor demonstrating catalyzed back-conversion from cis to trans azobenzene at room temperature under flow conditions. The working mechanism of the more suitable catalytic candidate was rationalized by detailed density functional theory (DFT) calculations. Thus, this work provides detailed insights into the azobenzene based MOST candidate and identifies where the system has to be improved for future solar energy storage applications.