Characterisation of Organic Dyes for Solid State Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
Abstract: Energy from the sun can be converted to low cost electricity using dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs). Dye molecules adsorbed to the surface of mesoporous TiO2 absorb light and inject electrons into the semiconductor. They are then regenerated by the reduced redox species from an electrolyte, typically consisting of the iodide/tri-iodide redox couple in an organic solvent. In a solid state version of the DSC, the liquid electrolyte is replaced by an organic hole conductor. Solid state DSCs using 2,2'7,7'-tetrakis-(N,N-di-p-methoxyphenyl-amine)-9,9'-spirobifluorene (spiro-MeOTAD) have reached conversion efficiencies of up to 6 %, which is about half of the efficiency of the best iodide/tri-iodide cells. Measurement techniques, such as spectroelectrochemistry and photo-induced absorption spectroscopy (PIA), were developed and applied to study the working mechanism of organic dyes in solid state DSCs under solar cell operating conditions. The energy alignment of the different solar cell components was studied by spectroelectrochemistry and the results were compared to photoelectron spectroscopy. PIA was used to study the injection and regeneration processes. For the first time, it was shown here that the results of PIA are influenced by an electric field due to the electrons injected into the TiO2. This electric field causes a shift in the absorption spectrum of dye molecules adsorbed to the TiO2 surface due to the Stark effect. Taking the Stark effect into consideration during the data analysis, mechanistic differences between solid state and conventional DSCs were found. A perylene dye, ID176, was only able to efficiently inject electrons into the TiO2 in presence of lithium ions and in absence of a solvent. As a result, the sensitiser worked surprisingly well in solid state DSCs but not in liquid electrolyte ones. Regeneration of oxidised dye molecules by spiro-MeOTAD was found to be fast and efficient and spiro-MeOTAD could even reduce excited dye molecules.
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