Materials Development for Solid-State Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The dye-sensitized solar cell (DSC) is a photovoltaic technology with the potential to efficiently and economically harvest and convert energy from the sun to electrical power. DSCs are built using abundant and low cost materials such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) and organic dye molecules. The dye molecule acts as a light absorber funneling electrons from its photo-excited state to the TiO2. A redox mediator which typical consists of iodide/tri-iodide undergoes redox reactions at the counter electrode and the oxidized dye molecule creating a circuit between the two. Solid-state versions of the DSC are also being investigated. In these devices the liquid electrolyte is exchanged with solid hole transporting material in order to both simplify the solar cell production as well as increasing the open-circuit potential and stability of the solar cell. One main draw-back, which limits the increase in conversion efficiency of solid-state DSC is the faster electron recombination dynamics between electrons in the TiO2 and holes in the solid hole transporter. Currently the highest performing liquid electrolyte DSC reaches a conversion efficiency of over 12 %, while the solid-state DSC is tailing with 7 %. Materials development is crucial for further development of the DSC technology, hopefully leading to better stability and higher efficiency. Many types of dye molecules, redox mediators as well as hole transporting materials and working electrode materials have all been tested and modified in the past in order to improve DSC performance. Significant further improvement of DSC technology requires a better understanding of the operating principle behind the DSC and the interaction between the different components. This requires advanced characterization methods for materials and solar cells. In this thesis, new materials for DSC have been developed, tested and characterized using advanced methods.  Atomic layer deposition was employed to develop a new working electrodes based on the core-shell SnO2-TiO2 material. These working electrodes were successfully used in both liquid and solid-state DSC to decrease the electron recombination dynamics and increase conversion efficiencies. The molecular structure of sensitizing dyes also plays a major role in electron recombination. Thus, investigating different molecular structures of sensitizing dyes is of importance when trying to improve DSC performance. Seven new molecular dye structures based on three different chromophore units were investigated in both liquid electrolyte and solid-state DSC. For example, adding a second anchoring group on the D35 molecular structure improved the light harvesting capabilities of the dye but did not result in DSC devices with higher conversion efficiency. Increasing the bulkiness of the molecular dye structure facing away from the TiO2 surface yielded on the other hand higher both slower electron recombination and higher conversion efficiencies. The effects of oxygen on solid-state DSC using spiro-OMeTAD were also studied. The chemical oxidation of the solid-state hole transporting material was found to depend on both time and storing conditions of the complete DSC devices. Solar cells with higher conversion efficiency were found for solid-state DSC stored under ambient air conditions before measured. Finally, a novel and efficient organic tandem solar cell was demonstrated built using a solid-state DSC and a bulk heterojunction solar. The 6 % efficient tandem cell almost perfectly added the photo-potentials of the subcells together while keeping the photo-current intact.

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