Diatom frustules enhancing the efficiency of gel polymer electrolyte based dye-sensitized solar cells with multilayer photoelectrodes
The incorporation of nanostructures that improve light scattering and dye adsorption has been suggested for dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), but the manufacture of photonic and nanostructured materials with the desired properties is not an easy task. In nature, however, the process of light-harvesting for photosynthesis has, in some cases, evolved structures with remarkable wavelength-sensitive light-trapping properties. The present work is focused on enhancing the efficiency of quasi solid-state DSSCs by capitalizing on the light trapping properties of diatom frustules since they provide complex 3-dimensional structures for scattering and trapping light. This study reports a promising approach to prepare TiO2 nanocrystal (14 nm) based photo-electrodes by utilizing the waveguiding and photon localization effects of nanostructured diatom frustules for enhancing light harvesting without deteriorating the electron conduction. Single and double-layered photo-electrodes were prepared with different frustule/nanocrystal combinations and conformations on transparent conductive oxide substrates. This study clearly reports impressive efficiency and short circuit current density enhancements of about 35% and 39%, respectively, due to the incorporation of diatom frustules extracted from a ubiquitous species. The SEM images obtained in this work reveal that the produced thin films had a remarkable surface coverage of evenly distributed frustules within the TiO2 nanoparticle layer. To the best of our knowledge, this study reports the first quasi solid-state DSSC based on a photo-electrode with incorporated bio-formed nanostructures.