Nowadays, excessive consumption of fossil fuels due to population growth and industrial development induced serious energy and environmental crisis. To alleviate the ecological crisis and comply with the ever-increasing energy demand, developing high performance energy storage devices and exploring clean and renewable energy are in high demand urgently. In recent years, organosilicon compounds have been widely used in energy storage devices and renewable energy due to their multiple excellent properties. They can be used as an electrolyte component of lithium batteries to greatly promote the performance and safety of batteries and can also be used as a sensitizer for solar cells and as an adhesive in solar cell components. In short, organosilicon has greatly promoted the development of the energy fields and become one of the indispensable materials to solve the energy crisis.
Application in lithium batteries: The electrolyte occupies a pivotal position in transmitting Li-ions, participating battery reactions, and guaranteeing reliability, which has been considered as a key factor toward higher energy density for Li-ion and Li-metal batteries. However, conventional electrolytes suffer from uncontrolled interfacial reactions and irreversible decomposition causing performance deterioration and potential safety hazard. Organosilicon compounds have attracted great interest as promising electrolyte components due to facile chemical modifications, low glass transition temperatures (Tg), superior chemical, and thermal stabilities  when compared with the traditional C-based organic electrolyte.
Fig. 1. Comparison of (a) organosilicon electrolytes and C-based organic electrolytes.
Nowadays, a variety of organosilicon compounds such as micromolecule silane and siloxane, macromolecule polysiloxane and polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes (POSS) all show great potentials in electrolytes. In Li-ion battery, they can serve as electrolyte additive, electrolyte solvent and cosolvent for liquid electrolytes and as the polymer framework for gel and solid state electrolytes, which endows the electrolyte with novel properties such as high pressure resistance, high/low temperature resistance, oxidation resistance, flame retardant SecurityMax, etc. They also can serve as electrolyte additive in Li-metal batteries such as Li-air battery and Li-S battery.
Fig. 2. Development roadmap of organosilicon-based electrolytes.
Application in solar cell: Organosilicon can be used in many aspects of solar cells. The details are described below. (1) Organosilicon compounds can act as sensitizers for dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). For examples, Ohshita et al. prepared organosilicon polymers with donor-acceptor type p-conjugated units in the backbone by reactions of bis(tributylstannylthienyl)silanes with diiodoquinoxialine, benzothiadiazole, and benzothiaselenazole. The synthesized polymer exhibited high PL quantum yields and had utilities as the sensitizers for DSSCs . (2) Organosilicon compounds can act as electrolyte for DSSCs. Lv et al. prepared a series of POSS-based solid electrolyte by grafted POSS with methyl-substituted imidazolium. The results showed that electrolyte had low glass transition temperature (Tg) that can enable the solid-state DSSCs to use at low temperatures . (3) Organosilicon can also be applied in solar modules as various roles. For examples, the adhesives made of organosilicon can bond, seal, and potting multiple solar modules. Silicone oil can be used as high temperature heat transfer medium for solar modules due to its excellent heat resistance and polymer molecular shear resistance; Some silicone resins have excellent heat and weather resistance and can be used as protective coatings for solar modules.
Fig. 3. Structures of POSS-based solid electrolyte.
Application in others: Beyond solar energy, wind power, hydroelectric, wave, geothermal, and even nuclear energy will all need materials capable of dealing with high temperatures and harsh environments. Organosilicon materials have also played a huge role in these fields.
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- Wang H., et al. Organosilicon-based functional electrolytes for high-performance lithium batteries[J]. Advanced Energy Materials, 2021, 11(28): 2101057.
- Ohshita J., et al. Synthesis of organosilicon polymers containing donor-acceptor type π-conjugated units and their applications to dye-sensitized solar cells[J]. Journal of organometallic chemistry, 2007, 692(4): 801-805.
- Lv K., et al. POSS-based electrolyte for efficient solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells at sub-zero temperatures[J]. ACS applied materials & interfaces, 2016, 8(8): 5343-5350.