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Chemphyschem. 2014 Apr 14;15(6):1126-37. doi: 10.1002/cphc.201300904. Epub 2014 Jan 20.

Interface stability of a TiO₂/3-methoxypropionitrile-based electrolyte: first evidence for solid electrolyte interphase formation and implications.

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Institut de Chimie de Picardie (ICP), CNRS FR 3085, 33 rue Saint Leu, 80039 Amiens (France); Laboratoire de Réactivité et Chimie des Solides (LRCS), Université de Picardie Jules Verne, CNRS UMR 7314, 33 rue Saint Leu, 80039 Amiens (France).


We report an in-depth study focusing on the stability of a benchmark electrolyte composition based on a low-volatile 3-methoxypropionitrile (MPN) solvent employed in dye-sensitized solar cells. In the presence of TiO2, the semi-conductor surface plays a catalytic role in the thermal degradation of the electrolyte, which induces, among other effects, the nucleation and growth of a uniform solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) layer that wraps TiO2. On the basis of our actual understanding, we argue that SEI formation is responsible for triiodide depletion in the electrolyte during ageing and also has a simultaneous impact on TiO2 optoelectronic properties through the onset of a visible-light absorption tail, energy modification of intraband trap states, and the induction of an increase in both electron lifetime and transport time in TiO2. In-depth characterization of this layer by using XPS and ToF-SIMS indicates that the chemical composition of this SEI results from solvent and additive degradation, that is, iodide, sulfur, cyano, nitrogen, carbon, and imidazolium rings. The SEI thickness, its content, and the concentration profile strongly vary depending on the ageing conditions. The outcome of this new finding is discussed in comparison with literature observations and stresses the difficulties in reaching long-term stability at 85 °C by using MPN-based electrolytes unless new interfacial engineering is accomplished to impede pinholes between dye molecules on TiO2.


degradation; dyes/pigments; electrochemistry; solar cells; solid electrolyte interphase


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