Optimization of 3D ZnO brush-like nanorods for dye-sensitized solar cells†
In a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) the amount of adsorbed dye on the photoanode surface is a key factor that must be maximized in order to obtain enhanced DSSC performance. In this study 3D ZnO nanostructures, named brush-like, are demonstrated as alternative photoanodes. In these structures, long ZnO nanorods are covered with a metal–organic precursor, known as a layered-hydroxide zinc salt (LHZS), which is subsequently converted to crystalline ZnO using two-step annealing. The LHZS is able to easily grow on any surface, such as the ZnO nanorod surface, without needing the assistance of a seed-layer. Brush-like structures synthesized using different citrate concentrations in the growth solutions and different annealing conditions are characterized and tested as DSSC photoanodes. The best-performing structure reported in this study was obtained using the highest citrate concentration (1.808 mM) and the lowest temperature annealing condition in an oxidative environment. Conversion efficiency as high as 1.95% was obtained when these brush-like structures were employed as DSSC photoanodes. These results are extremely promising for the implementation of these innovative structures in enhanced DSSCs, as well as in other applications that require the maximization of surface area exposed by ZnO or similar semiconductors, such as gas- or bio-sensing or photocatalysis.