Design and Tuning of Photoswitches for Solar Energy Storage.
ABSTRACT: Current energy demand makes it compulsory to explore alternative energy sources beyond fossil fuels. Molecular solar thermal (MOST) systems have been proposed as a suitable technology for the use and storage of solar energy. Compounds used for this application need to fulfil a long series of requirements, being the absorption of sunlight and the energy stored some of the most critical. In this paper, we study different families of well-known molecular photoswitches from the point of view of their potential use as MOST. Starting from basic structures, we use density functional theory (DFT) computational modelling to propose two different strategies to increase the energy difference between isomers and to tune the absorption spectrum. The inclusion of a mechanical lock in the structure, via an alkyl chain and the presence of a hydrogen bonding are shown to directly influence the energy difference and the absorption spectra. Results shown here prove that these two approaches could be relevant for the design of new compounds with improved performance for MOST applications.
Project description:Devices that can capture and convert sunlight into stored chemical energy are attractive candidates for future energy technologies. A general challenge is to combine efficient solar energy capture with high energy densities and energy storage time into a processable composite for device application. Here, norbornadiene (NBD)-quadricyclane (QC) molecular photoswitches are embedded into polymer matrices, with possible applications in energy storing coatings. The NBD-QC photoswitches that are capable of absorbing sunlight with estimated solar energy storage efficiencies of up to 3.8% combined with attractive energy storage densities of up to 0.48 MJ kg<sup>-1</sup>. The combination of donor and acceptor units leads to an improved solar spectrum match with an onset of absorption of up to 529 nm and a lifetime (<i>t</i> <sub>1/2</sub>) of up to 10 months. The NBD-QC systems with properties matched to a daily energy storage cycle are further investigated in the solid state by embedding the molecules into a series of polymer matrices revealing that polystyrene is the preferred choice of matrix. These polymer devices, which can absorb sunlight and over a daily cycle release the energy as heat, are investigated for their cyclability, showing multicycle reusability with limited degradation that might allow them to be applied as window laminates.
Project description:Manipulation of neuronal activity using two-photon excitation of azobenzene photoswitches with near-infrared light has been recently demonstrated, but their practical use in neuronal tissue to photostimulate individual neurons with three-dimensional precision has been hampered by firstly, the low efficacy and reliability of NIR-induced azobenzene photoisomerization compared to one-photon excitation, and secondly, the short cis state lifetime of the two-photon responsive azo switches. Here we report the rational design based on theoretical calculations and the synthesis of azobenzene photoswitches endowed with both high two-photon absorption cross section and slow thermal back-isomerization. These compounds provide optimized and sustained two-photon neuronal stimulation both in light-scattering brain tissue and in Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes, displaying photoresponse intensities that are comparable to those achieved under one-photon excitation. This finding opens the way to use both genetically targeted and pharmacologically selective azobenzene photoswitches to dissect intact neuronal circuits in three dimensions.
Project description:Photoswitchable molecules-based solar thermal energy storage system (MOST) can potentially be a route to store solar energy for future use. Herein, the use of a multijunction MOST device that combines various photoswitches with different onsets of absorption to push the efficiency limit on solar energy collection and storage is explored. With a parametric model calculation, it is shown that the efficiency limit of MOST concept can be improved from 13.0% to 18.2% with a double-junction system and to 20.5% with a triple-junction system containing ideal, red-shifted MOST candidates. As a proof-of-concept, the use of a three-layered MOST device is experimentally demonstrated. The device uses different photoswitches including a norbornadiene derivative, a dihydroazulene derivative, and an azobenzene derivative in liquid state with different MOSTproperties, to increase the energy capture and storage behavior. This conceptional device introduces a new way of thinking and designing optimal molecular candidates for MOST, as much improvement can be made by tailoring molecules to efficiently store solar energy at specific wavelengths.
Project description:Nonlinear optical techniques as two-photon absorption (TPA) have raised relevant interest within the last years due to the capability to excite chromophores with photons of wavelength equal to only half of the corresponding one-photon absorption energy. At the same time, its probability being proportional to the square of the light source intensity, it allows a better spatial control of the light-induced phenomenon. Although a consistent number of experimental studies focus on increasing the TPA cross section, very few of them are devoted to the study of photochemical phenomena induced by TPA. Here, we show a design strategy to find suitable <i>E</i>/<i>Z</i> photoswitches that can be activated by TPA. A theoretical approach is followed to predict the TPA cross sections related to different excited states of various photoswitches' families, finally concluding that protonated Schiff-bases (retinal)-like photoswitches outperform compared to the others. The donor-acceptor substitution effect is therefore rationalized for the successful TPA activatable photoswitch, in order to maximize its properties, finally also forecasting a possible application in optogenetics. Some experimental measurements are also carried out to support our conclusions.
Project description:Azobenzene photoswitches confer light sensitivity onto retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in blind mice, making these compounds promising candidates as vision-restoring drugs in humans with degenerative blindness. Remarkably, photosensitization manifests only in animals with photoreceptor degeneration and is absent from those with intact rods and cones. Here we show that P2X receptors mediate the entry of photoswitches into RGCs, where they associate with voltage-gated ion channels, enabling light to control action-potential firing. All charged photoswitch compounds require permeation through P2X receptors, whose gene expression is upregulated in the blind retina. Photoswitches and membrane-impermeant fluorescent dyes likewise penetrate through P2X receptors to label a subset of RGCs in the degenerated retina. Electrophysiological recordings and mapping of fluorescently labeled RGC dendritic projections together indicate that photosensitization is highly selective for OFF-RGCs. Hence, P2X receptors are a natural conduit allowing cell-type-selective and degeneration-specific delivery of photoswitches to restore visual function in blinding disease.
Project description:A series of substituted azothiophenes was prepared and investigated toward their isomerization behavior. Compared to azobenzene (AB), the presented compounds showed red-shifted absorption and almost quantitative photoisomerization to their (Z) states. Furthermore, it was found that electron-withdrawing substitution on the phenyl moiety increases, while electron-donating substitution decreases the thermal half-lives of the (Z)-isomers due to higher or lower stabilization by a lone pair-? interaction. Additionally, computational analysis of the isomerization revealed that a pure singlet state transition state is unlikely in azothiophenes. A pathway via intersystem crossing to a triplet energy surface of lower energy than the singlet surface provided a better fit with experimental data of the (Z)?(E) isomerization. The insights gained in this study provide the necessary guidelines to design effective thiophenylazo-photoswitches for applications in photopharmacology, material sciences, or solar energy harvesting applications.
Project description:Molecular photoswitches enable reversible external control of biological systems, nanomachines, and smart materials. Their development is driven by the need for low energy (green-red-NIR) light switching, to allow non-invasive operation with deep tissue penetration. The lack of clear design principles for the adaptation and optimization of such systems limits further applications. Here we provide a design rulebook for tetra-ortho-chloroazobenzenes, an emerging class of visible-light-responsive photochromes, by elucidating the role that substituents play in defining their key characteristics: absorption spectra, band overlap, photoswitching efficiencies, and half-lives of the unstable cis isomers. This is achieved through joint photochemical and theoretical analyses of a representative library of molecules featuring substituents of varying electronic nature. A set of guidelines is presented that enables tuning of properties to the desired application through informed photochrome engineering.
Project description:Molecular photoswitches provide an extremely simple solution for solar energy conversion and storage. To convert stored energy to electricity, however, the photoswitch has to be coupled to a semiconducting electrode. In this work, we report on the assembly of an operational solar-energy-storing organic-oxide hybrid interface, which consists of a tailor-made molecular photoswitch and an atomically-defined semiconducting oxide film. The synthesized norbornadiene derivative 2-cyano-3-(4-carboxyphenyl)norbornadiene (CNBD) was anchored to a well-ordered Co<sub>3</sub>O<sub>4</sub>(111) surface by physical vapor deposition in ultrahigh vacuum. Using a photochemical infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy experiment, we demonstrate that the anchored CNBD monolayer remains operational, i.e., can be photo-converted to its energy-rich counterpart 2-cyano-3-(4-carboxyphenyl)quadricyclane (CQC). We show that the activation barrier for energy release remains unaffected by the anchoring reaction and the anchored photoswitch can be charged and discharged with high reversibility. Our atomically-defined solar-energy-storing model interface enables detailed studies of energy conversion processes at organic/oxide hybrid interfaces.
Project description:Three technologies have emerged as therapies to restore light sensing to profoundly blind patients suffering from late-stage retinal degenerations: (1) retinal prosthetics, (2) optogenetics, and (3) chemical photoswitches. Prosthetics are the most mature and the only approach in clinical practice. Prosthetic implants require complex surgical intervention and provide only limited visual resolution but can potentially restore navigational ability to many blind patients. Optogenetics uses viral delivery of type 1 opsin genes from prokaryotes or eukaryote algae to restore light responses in survivor neurons. Targeting and expression remain major problems, but are potentially soluble. Importantly, optogenetics could provide the ultimate in high-resolution vision due to the long persistence of gene expression achieved in animal models. Nevertheless, optogenetics remains challenging to implement in human eyes with large volumes, complex disease progression, and physical barriers to viral penetration. Now, a new generation of photochromic ligands or chemical photoswitches (azobenzene-quaternary ammonium derivatives) can be injected into a degenerated mouse eye and, in minutes to hours, activate light responses in neurons. These photoswitches offer the potential for rapidly and reversibly screening the vision restoration expected in an individual patient. Chemical photoswitch variants that persist in the cell membrane could make them a simple therapy of choice, with resolution and sensitivity equivalent to optogenetics approaches. A major complexity in treating retinal degenerations is retinal remodeling: pathologic network rewiring, molecular reprogramming, and cell death that compromise signaling in the surviving retina. Remodeling forces a choice between upstream and downstream targeting, each engaging different benefits and defects. Prosthetics and optogenetics can be implemented in either mode, but the use of chemical photoswitches is currently limited to downstream implementations. Even so, given the high density of human foveal ganglion cells, the ultimate chemical photoswitch treatment could deliver cost-effective, high-resolution vision for the blind.
Project description:The binding mechanism of the protonated open form of three spiropyran derivatives into a 12-mer (poly-dAT)2 has been unveiled by means of computational methods. It is found that the electrostatic term in the probe:DNA binding energy, modulates the binding mode, providing new guidelines for the design of spiropyran photoswitches with specific binding modes to DNA.