Anatase TiO2 nanorod-decoration for highly efficient photoenergy conversion†
In recent studies of inorganic materials for energy applications, surface modification processes have been shown to be among the most effective methods to enhance the performance of devices. Here, we demonstrate a facile nano-decoration method which is generally applicable to anatase TiO2 nanostructures, as well as a nano-decorated hierarchical TiO2 nanostructure which improves the energy conversion efficiency of a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC). Using a facile sol–gel method, 0-D, 1-D, and 2-D type anatase TiO2 nanostructures were decorated with 200 nm long anatase TiO2 nanorods to create various hierarchical nanostructures. A structural analysis reveals that the branched nanorod has a highly crystalline anatase phase with anisotropic growth in the  longitudinal direction. When one of the hierarchical structures, a chestnut bur-like nanostructure, was employed in a dye-sensitized solar cell as a scattering layer, offering increased dye-loading properties, preserving a sufficient level of light-scattering ability and preserving superior charge transport and recombination properties as well, the energy conversion efficiency of the cell improved by 19% (from 7.16% to 9.09%) compared to a cell with a 0-D TiO2 sphere as a scattering layer. This generally applicable anatase nanorod-decorating method offers potential applications in various energy-conversion applications, especially in DSSCs, quantum-dot solar cells, photoelectrochemical water-splitting devices, photocatalysis, and lithium ion batteries.