Harvesting UV photons for solar energy conversion applications†
We report the synthesis and characterization of five new donor–π–spacer–acceptor dye molecules with a diphenylamine donor, fluorene–1,2,5-oxadiazole spacers and a range of acceptor/anchor groups (carboxylic acid 1, cyanoacrylic acid 2 and 3, alcohol 4 and cyano 5) to facilitate electron injection from the excited dye into the TiO2 photoanode in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). Detailed photophysical studies have probed the dyes' excited state properties and revealed structure–property relationships within the series. Density functional theory (DFT) and time dependent DFT (TDDFT) calculations provide further insights into how the molecular geometry and electronic properties impact on the photovoltaic performance. A special feature of these dyes is that their absorption features are located predominantly in the UV region, which means the dye-sensitized TiO2 is essentially colorless. Nevertheless, DSSCs assembled from 1 and 2 exhibit photovoltaic power conversion efficiencies of η = 1.3 and 2.2%, respectively, which makes the dyes viable candidates for low-power solar cells that need to be transparent and colorless and for applications that require enhanced harvesting of UV photons.