Interfacial Electron Transfer at Sensitized Nanocrystalline TiO2 Electrolyte Interfaces: Influence of Surface Electric Fields and Lewis Acidic Cations Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Barr, Timothy
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Chemistry
  • Interfacial electron transfer reactions facilitate charge separation and recombination in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). Understanding what controls these electron transfer reactions is necessary to develop efficient DSSCs. Gerischer proposed a theory for interfacial electron transfer where the rate constant was related to the energetic overlap between the donor and acceptor states. The present work focuses on understanding how the composition of the CH3CN electrolyte influenced this overlap. It was found that the identity of the electrolyte cation tuned the energetic position of TiO2 electron acceptor states, similar to how pH influences the flatband potential of bulk semiconductors in aqueous electrolytes. For example, the onset for absorption changes, that were attributed to electrons in the TiO2 thin film, were ~0.5 V more positive in Mg2+ containing electrolyte than TBA+, where TBA+ is tetrabutylammonium. Similar studies performed on mesoporous, nanocrystalline SnO2 thin films reported a similar cation dependence, but also found evidence for electrons that did not absorb in the visible region that were termed ‘phantom electrons.’ Electron injection is known to generate surface electric fields on the order of 2 MV/cm. The rearrangement of cations in response to surface electric fields, termed screening, was investigated. It was found that magnitude of the electric field and the screening dynamics were dependent on the identity of the electrolyte cation. The rate of charge recombination to the anionic iodide/triiodide redox mediator correlated with the screening ability of the cation, and was initially thought to control charge recombination. However, it was difficult to determine whether electron diffusion or driving force were also cation dependent. Therefore, a in-lab built apparatus, termed STRiVE, was constructed that could disentangle the influence electron diffusion, driving force, and electric fields had on charge recombination. It was found that electron diffusion was independent of the electrolyte cation. Furthermore, charge recombination displayed the same cation-sensitivity using both anionic and cationic redox mediators, indicating electric fields did not cause the cation-dependence of charge recombination. Instead, it was found that the electrolyte cation tuned the energetic position of the TiO2 acceptor states and modulated the driving force for charge recombination.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Cahoon, James
  • Meyer, Gerald
  • Schauer, Cynthia
  • You, Wei
  • Atkin, Joanna
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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