Towards high efficiency air-processed near-infrared responsive photovoltaics: bulk heterojunction solar cells based on PbS/CdS core–shell quantum dots and TiO2 nanorod arrays†
Near infrared (NIR) PbS quantum dots (QDs) have attracted significant research interest in solar cell applications as they offer several advantages, such as tunable band gaps, capability of absorbing NIR photons, low cost solution processability and high potential for multiple exciton generation. Nonetheless, reports on solar cells based on NIR PbS/CdS core–shell QDs, which are in general more stable and better passivated than PbS QDs and thus more promising for solar cell applications, remain very rare. Herein we report high efficiency bulk heterojunction QD solar cells involving hydrothermally grown TiO2 nanorod arrays and PbS/CdS core–shell QDs processed in air (except for a device thermal annealing step) with a photoresponse extended to wavelengths >1200 nm and with a power conversion efficiency (PCE) as high as 4.43%. This efficiency was achieved by introducing a thin, sputter-deposited, uniform TiO2 seed layer to improve the interface between the TiO2 nanorod arrays and the front electrode, by optimizing TiO2 nanorod length and by conducting QD annealing treatment to enhance charge carrier transport. It was found that the effect of the seed layer became more obvious when the TiO2 nanorods were longer. Although photocurrent did not change much, both open circuit voltage and fill factor clearly changed with TiO2 nanorod length. This was mainly attributed to the variation of charge transport and recombination processes, as evidenced by series and shunt resistance studies. The optimal PCE was obtained at the nanorod length of ∼450 nm. Annealing is shown to further increase the PCE by ∼18%, because of the improvement of charge carrier transport in the devices as evidenced by considerably increased photocurrent. Our results clearly demonstrate the potential of the PbS/CdS core–shell QDs for the achievement of high PCE, solution processable and NIR responsive QD solar cells.