Nature has chosen chlorophylls in plants as antennae to harvest light for the conversion of solar energy in complicated photosynthetic processes. Inspired by natural photosynthesis, scientists utilized artificial chlorophylls – the porphyrins – as efficient centres to harvest light for solar cells sensitized with a porphyrin (PSSC). After the first example appeared in 1993 of a porphyrin of type copper chlorophyll as a photosensitizer for PSSC that achieved a power conversion efficiency of 2.6%, no significant advance of PSSC was reported until 2005; beta-linked zinc porphyrins were then reported to show promising device performances with a benchmark efficiency of 7.1% reported in 2007. Meso-linked zinc porphyrin sensitizers in the first series with a push–pull framework appeared in 2009; the best cell performed comparably to that of a N3-based device, and a benchmark 11% was reported for a porphyrin sensitizer of this type in 2010. With a structural design involving long alkoxyl chains to envelop the porphyrin core to suppress the dye aggregation for a push–pull zinc porphyrin, the PSSC achieved a record 12.3% in 2011 with co-sensitization of an organic dye and a cobalt-based electrolyte. The best PSSC system exhibited a panchromatic feature for light harvesting covering the visible spectral region to 700 nm, giving opportunities to many other porphyrins, such as fused and dimeric porphyrins, with near-infrared absorption spectral features, together with the approach of molecular co-sensitization, to enhance the device performance of PSSC. According to this historical trend for the development of prospective porphyrin sensitizers used in PSSC, we review systematically the progress of porphyrins of varied kinds, and their derivatives, applied in PSSC with a focus on reports during 2007–2012 from the point of view of molecular design correlated with photovoltaic performance.
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