(641b) Synthesis Of TiO2 Nanowires For Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells

Authors: 
Boercker, J. - Presenter, University of Minnesota
Enache-Pommer, E. - Presenter, University of Minnesota
Aydil, E. S. - Presenter, University of Minnesota


Nanostructured mesoporous TiO2 films are used as photoanodes in novel solar-to-electric energy conversion devices such as dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). In a DSSC, a mesoporous TiO2 film, made up of 5-10 nm diameter nanoparticles is deposited on a transparent conducting oxide (TCO) and a monolayer of a dye is adsorbed onto the nanoparticle surfaces to form a photosensitized anode. The porous space between the particles is filled with an electrolyte containing I3-/I- redox couple and the cell is completed by sandwiching this nanostructured TiO2-dye-electrolyte interface between the TCO and a photocathode. The incident photons excite electrons from the HOMO to LUMO levels in the dye and these photoexcited electrons are injected into the TiO2 nanoparticles. The charged dye is reduced through an electrochemical reaction with I- in the electrolyte. The electrons hop from particle to particle, flow through the external load and reduce I3- at the cathode to complete the circuit. Electron transport through the nanoparticle film is via random walk with multiple trapping and detrapping events. This hopping mechanism increases transport time across the mesoporous film and puts stringent limits on the electron recombination kinetics at the TiO2-electrolyte interface; essentially, only electrolytes or hole conducting media with extraordinarily slow electron recombination at TiO2 surface can be used to achieve high electron collection efficiencies. Thus, high efficiency DSSCs have been limited to liquid electrolytes containing I3-/I-, the only known hole conducting media with electron recombination much slower than electron transport. This inflexibility with the hole conducting medium has limited the DSSC open circuit voltages, which is determined by the difference between the I3-/I- redox level and conduction band edge of the TiO2. Slow electron transport also limits the film thicknesses to less than the electron diffusion length and prevents further increase of the film's optical density in the infrared region of the spectrum where dye absorption cross sections are smaller.

Recently, there has been increased interest in replacing the nanoparticles with one dimensional nanostructures such as nanowires, nanotubes or chains of nanoparticles. This interest is based on the conjecture that such one dimensional nanostructures would provide direct transport from the point of injection to the anode without particle-to-particle hopping. This may result in faster electron transport and/or slower recombination allowing thicker photoanodes to be assembled with hole conducting media other than the ubiquitous I3-/I- electrolyte.

In this presentation, we describe a method for growing TiO2 nanowire films on titanium foil for use in DSSCs and explain the growth mechanism in detail. The synthesis method takes advantage of the ability to grow sodium titanate Na2Ti2O5?H2O nanotubes through hydrothermal treatment of titanium metal in basic solutions. The Na2Ti2O5?H2O nanotubes are transformed to hydrodogen titanate nanotubes by ion exchange and to anatase nanowires through annealing. Specifically, the titanium foil was placed in a pressure vessel with 10 M NaOH and 35 wt% H2O2 and heated at 220°C. A 10 micron thick film of Na2Ti2O5?H2O nanotubes formed on the surface of the titanium foil after four hours. The sodium titanate nanotubes are transformed, without loss of microstructure, to hydrogen titanate (H2Ti2O5?H2O ) by exchanging the Na+ with H+ in 0.6 M HCl solution. Finally, the hydrogen titanate nanotubes are converted to anatase TiO2 nanowires by heating them to 500°C for 1 hour.

The nanotubes and nanowires were examined at different stages of the synthesis using x-ray microdiffraction and scanning and transmission electron microscopies. The body-centered orthorhombic Na2Ti2O5?H2O crystal structure is made up of 2-dimensional sheets of TiO6 octahedra combined via edge-sharing with Na+, H+ and H2O in between the layers. The layers scroll to form the Na2Ti2O5?H2O nanotubes. After the ion-exchange, the TiO6 octahedra layers remain unchanged but the Na+ ions are replaced with H+ ions. During the subsequent annealing step, the water between the TiO2 octahedra layers leaves and the layers rearrange from edge-sharing octahedra to corner-sharing octahedra and come in contact with each other, forming anatase nanowires. HRTEM shows that the nanowires formed using this method are polycrystalline.

Solar cells were assembled by sandwiching the TiO2 nanowires between the Ti foil substrate and a fluorine doped tin oxide (FTO) glass coated with a thin platinum layer. A ruthenium based organic dye cis-Di-(thiocyanato)bis(2,2'-bipryidyl)-4-4'-dicarboxylate) ruthenium-(II) (N179) was absorbed onto the surface of the TiO2 nanowires. A liquid electrolyte containing the redox pair I-/I3- was injected in the space between the nanowires and the platinized FTO cathode. The TiO2 nanowire-based dye-sensitized solar cell exhibited short circuit currents of 4 mA/cm2, open-circuit voltages of 0.55 V with 60% fill factor and 1.3% overall efficiency under AM1.5 illumination.