Efficient Co-Harvesting of Solar Energy and Low-Grade Heat by Molecular Photoswitches for High Energy Density, Long-Term Stable Solar Thermal Battery

2019-08-27T16:15:31Z (GMT) by Zhao-Yang Zhang Tao LI
Solar energy and ambient heat are two inexhaustible energy sources for addressing the global challenge of energy and sustainability. Solar thermal battery based on molecular switches that can store solar energy and release it as heat has recently attracted great interest, but its development is severely limited by both low energy density and short storage stability. On the other hand, the efficient recovery and upgrading of low-grade heat, especially that of the ambient heat, has been a great challenge. Here we report that solar energy and ambient heat can be simultaneously harvested and stored, which is enabled by room-temperature photochemical crystal-to-liquid transitions of small-molecule photoswitches. The two forms of energy are released together to produce high-temperature heat during the reverse photochemical phase change. This strategy, combined with molecular design, provides high energy density of 320-370 J/g and long-term storage stability (half-life of about 3 months). On this basis, we fabricate high-performance, flexible film devices of solar thermal battery, which can be readily recharged at room temperature with good cycling ability, show fast rate of heat release, and produce high-temperature heat that is >20 oC higher than the ambient temperature. Our work opens up a new avenue to harvest ambient heat, and demonstrate a feasible strategy to develop high-performance solar thermal battery.