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Issue 46, 2012
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Adsorption of organic dyes on TiO2 surfaces in dye-sensitized solar cells: interplay of theory and experiment

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First-principles computer simulations can contribute to a deeper understanding of the dye/semiconductor interface lying at the heart of Dye-sensitized Solar Cells (DSCs). Here, we present the results of simulation of dye adsorption onto TiO2 surfaces, and of their implications for the functioning of the corresponding solar cells. We propose an integrated strategy which combines FT-IR measurements with DFT calculations to individuate the energetically favorable TiO2 adsorption mode of acetic acid, as a meaningful model for realistic organic dyes. Although we found a sizable variability in the relative stability of the considered adsorption modes with the model system and the method, a bridged bidentate structure was found to closely match the FT-IR frequency pattern, also being calculated as the most stable adsorption mode by calculations in solution. This adsorption mode was found to be the most stable binding also for realistic organic dyes bearing cyanoacrylic anchoring groups, while for a rhodanine-3-acetic acid anchoring group, an undissociated monodentate adsorption mode was found to be of comparable stability. The structural differences induced by the different anchoring groups were related to the different electron injection/recombination with oxidized dye properties which were experimentally assessed for the two classes of dyes. A stronger coupling and a possibly faster electron injection were also calculated for the bridged bidentate mode. We then investigated the adsorption mode and I2 binding of prototype organic dyes. Car–Parrinello molecular dynamics and geometry optimizations were performed for two coumarin dyes differing by the length of the π-bridge separating the donor and acceptor moieties. We related the decreasing distance of the carbonylic oxygen from the titania to an increased I2 concentration in proximity of the oxide surface, which might account for the different observed photovoltaic performances. The interplay between theory/simulation and experiments appears to be the key to further DSCs progress, both concerning the design of new dye sensitizers and their interaction with the semiconductor and with the solution environment and/or an electrolyte upon adsorption onto the semiconductor.

Graphical abstract: Adsorption of organic dyes on TiO2 surfaces in dye-sensitized solar cells: interplay of theory and experiment

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Publication details

The article was received on 28 Aug 2012, accepted on 11 Oct 2012 and first published on 11 Oct 2012

Article type: Perspective
DOI: 10.1039/C2CP43006A
Citation: Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2012,14, 15963-15974

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    Adsorption of organic dyes on TiO2 surfaces in dye-sensitized solar cells: interplay of theory and experiment

    C. Anselmi, E. Mosconi, M. Pastore, E. Ronca and F. De Angelis, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2012, 14, 15963
    DOI: 10.1039/C2CP43006A

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