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Nanowire dye-sensitized solar cells

Abstract

Excitonic solar cells1—including organic, hybrid organic–inorganic and dye-sensitized cells (DSCs)—are promising devices for inexpensive, large-scale solar energy conversion. The DSC is currently the most efficient2 and stable3 excitonic photocell. Central to this device is a thick nanoparticle film that provides a large surface area for the adsorption of light-harvesting molecules. However, nanoparticle DSCs rely on trap-limited diffusion for electron transport, a slow mechanism that can limit device efficiency, especially at longer wavelengths. Here we introduce a version of the dye-sensitized cell in which the traditional nanoparticle film is replaced by a dense array of oriented, crystalline ZnO nanowires. The nanowire anode is synthesized by mild aqueous chemistry and features a surface area up to one-fifth as large as a nanoparticle cell. The direct electrical pathways provided by the nanowires ensure the rapid collection of carriers generated throughout the device, and a full Sun efficiency of 1.5% is demonstrated, limited primarily by the surface area of the nanowire array.

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Figure 1: The nanowire dye-sensitized cell, based on a ZnO wire array.
Figure 2: Device performance under AM 1.5G illumination.
Figure 3: Comparative performance of nanowire and nanoparticle cells.
Figure 4: Transient mid-infrared absorption traces of dye-sensitized ZnO nanowire (NW) and ZnO nanoparticle (NP) films pumped at 400 nm.

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Acknowledgements

We thank M. Graetzel, A. P. Alivisatos, J. Frechet, B. O'Regan, E. Kadnikova, U. Bach, D. Milliron and I. Gur for discussions, T. Lavarone and S. Hamzehpour for technical assistance and A. P. Alivisatos for use of the solar simulator. This work was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Basic Sciences.

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Correspondence to Peidong Yang.

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Supplementary figures S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6, S7, S8 and S9 (PDF 563 kb)

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Law, M., Greene, L., Johnson, J. et al. Nanowire dye-sensitized solar cells. Nature Mater 4, 455–459 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat1387

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