Solar-thermal conversion and thermal energy storage of graphene foam-based composites†
Among various utilizations of solar energy, solar-thermal conversion has recently gained renewed research interest due to its extremely high energy efficiency. However, one limiting factor common to all solar-based energy conversion technologies is the intermittent nature of solar irradiation, which makes them unable to stand-alone to satisfy the continuous energy need. Herein, we report a three-dimensional (3D) graphene foam and phase change material (PCM) composite for the seamlessly combined solar-thermal conversion and thermal storage for sustained energy release. The composite is obtained by infiltrating the 3D graphene foam with a commonly used PCM, paraffin wax. The high macroporosity and low density of the graphene foam allow for high weight fraction of the PCM to be incorporated, which enhances the heat storage capacity of the composite. The interconnected graphene sheets in the composite provide (1) the solar-thermal conversion capability, (2) high thermal conductivity and (3) form stability of the composite. Under light irradiation, the composite effectively collects and converts the light energy into thermal energy, and the converted thermal energy is stored in the PCM and released in an elongated period of time for sustained utilization. This study provides a promising route for sustainable utilization of solar energy.