Home > Research > Publications & Outputs > Understanding Solid-State Photochemical Energy ...

Electronic data

  • Author accepted manuscript

    Accepted author manuscript, 1.15 MB, Word document

    Available under license: CC BY: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License


Text available via DOI:

View graph of relations

Understanding Solid-State Photochemical Energy Storage in Polymers with Azobenzene Side Groups

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>5/07/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>ACS applied materials &amp; interfaces
Issue number26
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)31787-31794
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date23/06/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Solar thermal fuel (STF) materials store energy through light-induced changes in the structures of photoactive molecular groups, and the stored energy is released as heat when the system undergoes reconversion to the ground-state structure. Solid-state STF devices could be useful for a range of applications; however, the light-induced structural changes required for energy storage are often limited or prevented by dense molecular packing in condensed phases. Recently, polymers have been proposed as effective solid-state STF platforms, as they can offer the bulk properties of solid materials while retaining the molecular-level free volume and/or mobility to enable local structural changes in photoresponsive groups. Light-induced energy storage and macroscopic heat release have been demonstrated for polymers with photoisomerizable azobenzene side groups. However, the mechanism of energy storage and the link between the polymer structure, energy density and storage duration has not yet been explored in detail. In this work, we present a systematic study of methacrylate- and acrylate-based polymers with azobenzene side groups to establish the mechanism of energy storage and release and the factors affecting energy density and reconversion kinetics. For polymers with directly attached azobenzene side groups, the energy storage properties are in line with previous work on similar systems, and the photoisomerization and reconversion properties of the azobenzene side groups mirror those of molecular azobenzene. However, the inclusion of an alkyl linker between the azobenzene side group and the backbone significantly increases the photoswitching efficiency, giving almost quantitative conversion to the Z isomeric state. The presence of the alkyl linker also reduces the glass transition temperature and leads to faster spontaneous thermal reconversion to the E isomeric form, but in all cases, half-lives of more than 4 days are observed in the solid state, which provides scope for applications requiring daily energy storage–release cycles. The maximum gravimetric energy density observed is 143 J g–1, which represents an increase of up to 44% compared to polymers with directly attached azobenzene moieties.