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Nat Mater. 2010 Jan;9(1):31-5. doi: 10.1038/nmat2588. Epub 2009 Nov 29.

Highly efficient photocathodes for dye-sensitized tandem solar cells.


Thin-film dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) based on mesoporous semiconductor electrodes are low-cost alternatives to conventional silicon devices. High-efficiency DSCs typically operate as photoanodes (n-DSCs), where photocurrents result from dye-sensitized electron injection into n-type semiconductors. Dye-sensitized photocathodes (p-DSCs) operate in an inverse mode, where dye-excitation is followed by rapid electron transfer from a p-type semiconductor to the dye (dye-sensitized hole injection). Such p-DSCs and n-DSCs can be combined to construct tandem solar cells (pn-DSCs) with a theoretical efficiency limitation well beyond that of single-junction DSCs (ref. 4). Nevertheless, the efficiencies of such tandem pn-DSCs have so far been hampered by the poor performance of the available p-DSCs (refs 3, 5-15). Here we show for the first time that p-DSCs can convert absorbed photons to electrons with yields of up to 96%, resulting in a sevenfold increase in energy conversion efficiency compared with previously reported photocathodes. The donor-acceptor dyes, studied as photocathodic sensitizers, comprise a variable-length oligothiophene bridge, which provides control over the spatial separation of the photogenerated charge carriers. As a result, charge recombination is decelerated by several orders of magnitude and tandem pn-DSCs can be constructed that exceed the efficiency of their individual components.


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