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Issue 1, 2013
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Influence of the dye molecular structure on the TiO2 conduction band in dye-sensitized solar cells: disentangling charge transfer and electrostatic effects

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Abstract

We report a thorough theoretical and computational investigation of the effect of dye adsorption on the TiO2 conduction band energy in dye-sensitized solar cells that is aimed at assessing the origin of the shifts induced by surface adsorbed species in the position of the TiO2 conduction band. We thus investigate a series of working dye sensitizers and prototypical surface adsorbers and apply an innovative approach to disentangle electrostatic and charge-transfer effects occurring at the crucial dye–TiO2 interface. We clearly demonstrate that an extensive charge rearrangement accompanies the dye–TiO2 interaction, which amounts to transfer of up to 0.3–0.4 electrons from the dyes bound in a dissociative mode to the semiconductor. Molecular monodentate adsorption leads to a much smaller CT. We also find that the amount of CT is modulated by the dye donor groups, with the coumarin dyes showing a stronger CT. A subtle modulation of the semiconductor conduction band edge energy is found by varying the nature of the dye, in line with the experimental data from the literature obtained by capacitance and open circuit voltage measurements. We then decompose the total conduction band shift into contributions directly related to the sensitizer properties, considering the effect of the electric field generated by the dye on the semiconductor conduction band. This effect, which amounts to ca. 40% of the total shift, shows a linear correlation with the TiO2 conduction band shifts. A direct correlation between the dye dipole and the observed conduction band shift is retrieved only for dyes of similar structure and dimensions. We finally found a near-exact proportionality between the amount of charge transfer and the residual contribution to the conduction band shift, which may be as large as 60% of the total shift. The present findings constitute the basis for obtaining a deeper understanding of the crucial interactions taking place at the dye–semiconductor interface, and establish new design rules for dyes with improved DSC functionality.

Graphical abstract: Influence of the dye molecular structure on the TiO2 conduction band in dye-sensitized solar cells: disentangling charge transfer and electrostatic effects

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Publication details

The article was received on 13 Aug 2012, accepted on 18 Oct 2012 and first published on 19 Oct 2012


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C2EE23170K
Citation: Energy Environ. Sci., 2013,6, 183-193
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    Influence of the dye molecular structure on the TiO2 conduction band in dye-sensitized solar cells: disentangling charge transfer and electrostatic effects

    E. Ronca, M. Pastore, L. Belpassi, F. Tarantelli and F. De Angelis, Energy Environ. Sci., 2013, 6, 183
    DOI: 10.1039/C2EE23170K

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