Charge transport versus recombination in dye-sensitized solar cells employing nanocrystalline TiO2 and SnO2 films

Alex N M Green, Emilio Palomares, Saif A Haque, Jan M Kroon, James R Durrant
Journal of Physical Chemistry. B 2005 June 30, 109 (25): 12525-33
We report a comparison of charge transport and recombination dynamics in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) employing nanocrystalline TiO(2) and SnO(2) films and address the impact of these dynamics upon photovoltaic device efficiency. Transient photovoltage studies of electron transport in the metal oxide film are correlated with transient absorption studies of electron recombination with both oxidized sensitizer dyes and the redox couple. For all three processes, the dynamics are observed to be 2-3 orders of magnitude faster for the SnO(2) electrode. The origins of these faster dynamics are addressed by studies correlating the electron recombination dynamics to dye cations with chronoamperometric studies of film electron density. These studies indicate that the faster recombination dynamics for the SnO(2) electrodes result both from a 100-fold higher electron diffusion constant at matched electron densities, consistent with a lower trap density for this metal oxide relative to TiO(2), and from a 300 mV positive shift of the SnO(2) conduction band/trap states density of states relative to TiO(2). The faster recombination to the redox couple results in an increased dark current for DSSCs employing SnO(2) films, limiting the device open-circuit voltage. The faster recombination dynamics to the dye cation result in a significant reduction in the efficiency of regeneration of the dye ground state by the redox couple, as confirmed by transient absorption studies of this reaction, and in a loss of device short-circuit current and fill factor. The importance of this loss pathway was confirmed by nonideal diode equation analyses of device current-voltage data. The addition of MgO blocking layers is shown to be effective at reducing recombination losses to the redox electrolyte but is found to be unable to retard recombination dynamics to the dye cation sufficiently to allow efficient dye regeneration without resulting in concomitant losses of electron injection efficiency. We conclude that such a large acceleration of electron dynamics within the metal oxide films of DSSCs may in general be detrimental to device efficiency due to the limited rate of dye regeneration by the redox couple and discuss the implications of this conclusion for strategies to optimize device performance.


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