Case 14985

Azobenzene Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes and Other Templated Photoswitch Molecules for High Energy Density Solar Thermal Fuels

Keywords:

Solar thermal fuels, renewable energy, photoswitch, carbon nanotubes, density functional theory

Applications:

Clean, renewable, and transportable energy conversion/storage

Problem:

Large-scale adoption of solar thermal fuels requires enhanced energy storage capacity and thermal stability. Previous solar thermal fuels degraded after only a few cycles of energy conversion and release and/or were composed of expensive, non-abundant elements.

Technology:

The invention suggests a new approach to the design of high-energy density solar thermal fuels based on combining well-studied photoswitch molecules with carbon nanotubes to increase energy storage capacity and thermal stability of the photoswitch molecules. The novel solar thermal fuel is composed of azobenzene-functionalized carbon nanotubes and can have both volumetric and gravimetric energy densities comparable to that of Li-ion batteries.

Advantages:
  • No emissions
  • Easily transportable in liquid or powder form
  • Easy to recharge
  • Can cycle through energy conversion and release numerous times without degradation
  • CNT substrate imposes close-packed, highly ordered array of adsorbed photomolecules, which leads to increased volumetric energy density
  • Enables systematic manipulation of the inter- and intra-molecular interactions, creating a highly effective set of tuning parameters for maximizing both energy storage capacity and storage lifetime of the solar thermal fuel

Inventors:
  • Professor Jeffrey C. Grossman (Department of Material Science and Engineering, MIT)
  • Alexis M. Kolpak (Department of Material Science and Engineering, MIT)

Intellectual Property:

US Patent Application 61/479529 filed 4/27/2011

PCT Patent Application PCT/US2012/035379

Publications:

A. M. Kolpak and J. C. Grossman, “Azobenzene-Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes As High-Energy Density Solar Thermal Fuels,” Nano Letters 11, 3156-3162 (2011).

MIT News (10/26/2010): “Catching the sun's heat: Storing thermal energy in chemical form has the potential to make it indefinitely storable and transportable”

MIT News (7/13/2011): “Research Update: New Way to Store Sun’s Heat”

Last revised: November 15, 2011

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