Enhancing the Photo-electrode Features to Improve the Solar Conversion Efficiency in the Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell
Mesoporous semiconductors such as TiO2 nanoparticles, as well as transparent conducting oxides (TCOs) such as indium tin oxide films are typically employed for setting up the photo-electrode module in variety of photoelectrochemical cells including DyeSensitized Solar Cells (DSSCs). In order to exhibit a high performance efficiency, the photo-electrodes in such applications are required to be able to harvest the light and transport the generated electrons effectively. Accordingly mesoporous layers with high values of surface area and well-established pore structure along with highly transparent and conductive TCOs are deposited on suitable substrates through the physical or chemical vapor deposition methods. The processing facilities and materials required to fabricate such high-quality devices with high values of efficiency are complicated and expensive, whereas devices of lower quality do not fulfill the demands. This issue is of particular importance regarding the energy production and developing the solar cell technologies, as it is considered by the concept of “cost per watt”. Thus, a great deal of effort is being carried out globally to enhance the efficiency of affordably-produced solar cells such as low-cost DSSCs. Utilizing the wet chemical techniques such as sol-gel method which provide a considerably more affordable route to synthesize nanoparticles and deposit thin films without the need of applying high temperature or vacuum condition is a widely-used approach to decrease the processing expenses. However, to achieve an acceptable cost-perwatt ratio requires enhancing the obtained efficiency value as well, and therefore, modifying the processing procedures to improve the required features of the products are highly encouraged. This thesis focuses on two individual activities: synthesis of TiO2 nanoparticles, and also thin film deposition of a promising TCO called aluminum-doped zinc oxide (AZO); both obtained through the sol-gel route that is modified to contribute to nanostructures with suitable features for application in photoelectrochemical devices such as DSSC. In the first part, mesoporous anatase nanoparticles were synthesized through the surfactant-mediated sol–gel route. Through changing the refluxing time and water-to-surfactant molar ratio, asprepared nanocrystals of high density and large and narrowlydistributed pore sizes were obtained, displaying surface area values up to 240 m2·g-1, much higher than the reported values for commercial TiO2-based catalysts. In the second part, sol–gel dip– coating of ZnO thin films doped with 2 at.% of aluminium ions was carried out. By altering the hydrolysis reaction and changing the thermal treatment procedure, thin films of highly c-axis preferred orientation were obtained with optical transmittance of around 80% and resistivity values down to 6 – 15 mΩ·cm, corresponding to sheet resistance of around Rsh ~ 500 Ω/sq. The obtained conductivity values, even though one order magnitude lower than those reported for the AZO thin film prepared via expensive techniques, are in the suitable range to improve the cost per watt ratio in applications such as inkjet printing of low-cost printed electronics and more affordable DSSC devices.