Dye Sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) are a promising candidate for next generation photovoltaic panels due to their low cost, easy fabrication process, and relative high efficiency. Despite considerable effort on the advancement of DSSCs, the efficiency has been stalled for nearly a decade due to the complex interplay among various DSSC components. DSSCs consist of a photoanode on a conducting substrate, infiltrated dye for light absorption and electron injection, and an electrolyte to regenerate the dye. On the photoanode is a high band-gap semiconducting material, primarily of a nanostructure morphology of titanium (II) dioxide (TiO2), dye molecules whose molar absorption is typically in the visible spectrum, are adsorbed onto the surface of TiO2. To improve the current DSSCs, there are many parameters that can be investigated.
In a conventional DSSC, a thick semiconducting layer such as the nanoparticle TiO2 layer induces charge separation efficiently while concurrently increasing the charge transport distance, leading the cell to suffer from more charge recombination and deterioration in charge collection efficiency. To improve on this limitation, TiO2 nanowires (NW) and nanotubes (NT) are explored to replace the nanoparticle photoanode. One-dimensional nanostructures are known for the excellent electron transport properties as well as maintaining a relatively high surface area. Hence one of the focuses of this thesis explores at using different morphologies and composition of TiO2 nanostructures to enhance electron collection efficiency.
Another challenge in conventional DSSCs is the limit in light absorption of solar irradiation. Dyes are limited to absorption only in the visible range, and have a low molar absorption coefficient in the near infrared (NIR). Tuning dyes is extremely complicated and may have more disadvantages than simply by extending light harvesting. Therefore our strategy is to incorporate quantum dots to replace the dye, as well as prepare a cell for the possibility of co-sensitization, thereby extending the absorption of light in the visible and NIR.
The first phase of the thesis involves the synthesis and characterization of the materials used for the cell. We successfully synthesized TiO2 nanowires and nanotubes and characterized them for the use as the photoanode. Both one-dimensional structures proved to have low resistivity, chemical stability, and high density. We also synthesized lead (II) sulfide (PbS) quantum dots (QDs) and explored at modifying their
diameter in order to properly control their light harvesting potential into the NIR region. The electron transport kinetics proved to be faster in one-dimensional nanostructure due to their high crystallinity order and reduced elastic scattering of the electrons during transport. Furthermore, quantum dots were synthesized such that their band-gap allowed for the absorption of NIR light. This result extended the harvesting potential of our solar cell and suggests the possibility for co-sensitization in DSSCs using dye molecules and quantum dots.
Hence, the focus of this thesis work is to systematically explore a transformative way to fundamentally enhance charge transport and extend light absorption by in the incorporation of two sensitizing agents.