Kinetic and energetic paradigms for dye-sensitized solar cells: moving from the ideal to the real.

Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2AZ, United Kingdom.
Accounts of Chemical Research (Impact Factor: 24.35). 09/2009; 42(11):1799-808. DOI: 10.1021/ar900145z
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) are photoelectrochemical solar cells. Their function is based on photoinduced charge separation at a dye-sensitized interface between a nanocrystalline, mesoporous metal oxide electrode and a redox electrolyte. They have been the subject of substantial academic and commercial research over the last 20 years, motivated by their potential as a low-cost solar energy conversion technology. Substantial progress has been made in enhancing the efficiency, stability, and processability of this technology and, in particular, the interplay between these technology drivers. However, despite intense research efforts, our ability to identify predictive materials and structure/device function relationships and, thus, achieve the rational optimization of materials and device design, remains relatively limited. A key challenge in developing such predictive design tools is the chemical complexity of the device. DSSCs comprise distinct materials components, including metal oxide nanoparticles, a molecular sensitizer dye, and a redox electrolyte, all of which exhibit complex interactions with each other. In particular, the electrolyte alone is chemically complex, including not only a redox couple (almost always iodide/iodine) but also a range of additional additives found empirically to enhance device performance. These molecular solutes make up typically 20% of the electrolyte by volume. As with most molecular systems, they exhibit complex interactions with both themselves and the other device components (e.g., the sensitizer dye and the metal oxide). Moreover, these interactions can be modulated by solar irradiation and device operation. As such, understanding the function of these photoelectrochemical solar cells requires careful consideration of the chemical complexity and its impact upon device operation. In this Account, we focus on the process by which electrons injected into the nanocrystalline electrode are collected by the external electrical circuit in real devices under operating conditions. We first of all summarize device function, including the energetics and kinetics of the key processes, using an "idealized" description, which does not fully account for much of the chemical complexity of the system. We then go on to consider recent advances in our understanding of the impact of these complexities upon the efficiency of electron collection. These include "catalysis" of interfacial recombination losses by surface adsorption processes and the influence of device operating conditions upon the recombination rate constant and conduction band energy, both attributed to changes in the chemical composition of the interface. We go on to discuss appropriate methodologies for quantifying the efficiency of electron collection in devices under operation. Finally, we show that, by taking into account these advances in our understanding of the DSSC function, we are able to recreate the current/voltage curves of both efficient and degraded devices without any fitting parameters and, thus, gain significant insight into the determinants of DSSC performance.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A comprehensive description of the complicated dynamics of excited state evolution and charge transfer at the photochemical interface in dye-sensitized solar cells is crucial to understand the mechanism of converting solar photons to clean electricity, providing an informative basis for the future development of advanced organic materials. By selecting two triarylamine-based organic donor-acceptor dyes characteristic of the respective benzoic acid and cyanoacrylic acid anchors, in this paper we reveal stepwise excited state relaxations and multiple-state electron injections at a realistic titania/dye/electrolyte interface based upon ultrafast spectroscopic measurements and theoretical simulations. Density functional theory (DFT) and time-dependent DFT calculations show that the optically generated "hot" excited state of the dye molecules can undergo a significant conformational relaxation via multistage torsional motions, and thereby transform into an equilibrium quinonoid structure characteristic of a more planar conjugated backbone. A set of kinetic parameters derived from the target analysis of femtosecond transient absorption spectra have been utilized to estimate the electron injection yield, which is in good accord with the maximum of external quantum efficiencies.
    Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 08/2014; · 4.20 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A PbS:Hg quantum dots-sensitized solar cell (QDSC) combined with a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSC) to harvest panchromatic solar spectrum from the visible light to the near IR is demonstrated. We use the filter to split the solar energy and access the total conversion efficiency. The DSC performing 12.4% under AM1.5G sunlight was able to generate 9.1% with a short-wave pass filter cutting off photons of wavelength longer than 650 nm. On the other hand, QDSC performing 5.58% generated 3.42% with the use of a long-wave pass filter transmitting beyond 630 nm. Calculated on the basis of transmitted light, DSC and QDSC performed 24.0% and 5.90%, leading to almost 13.1% of estimated total power conversion efficiency by harvesting the solar energy from visible light to the NIR.
    Solar Energy 11/2014; 109:183–188. · 3.54 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The detailed interpretation of time-resolved spectroscopic signals in terms of the molecular rearrangement during a photoreaction or a photophysical event is one of the most important challenges of both experimental and theoretical chemistry. Here we simulate a time resolved fluorescence spectrum of a dye in aqueous solution, the N-methyl-6-oxyquinolinium betaine, and analyze it in terms of far IR and THz frequency contributions, providing a direct connection to specific molecular motions. To obtain this result, we build up an innovative and general approach based on excited state ab-initio molecular dynamics and a wavelet-based time dependent frequency analysis of non-stationary signals. We obtain a nice agreement with key parameters of the solvent dynamics, such as the total Stokes shift and the Stokes shift relaxation times. As important finding, we observe a strong change of specific solute-solvent interactions upon the electronic excitation, with the migration of about 1.5 water molecules from the first solvation shell toward the bulk. In spite of this event, the Stokes shift dynamics is ruled by collective solvent motions in the THz and far IR, which guide and modulate the strong rearrangement of the dye microsolvation. By the relaxation of THz and IR contributions to the emission signal, we can follow and understand in detail the molecularity of the process. The protocol presented here is in principle transferable to other time-resolved spectroscopic techniques.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 09/2014; · 11.44 Impact Factor