The Effect of the Dielectric Environment on Electron Transfer Reactions at the Interfaces of Molecular Sensitized Semiconductors in Electrolytes
© 2020 American Chemical Society. Electron transfer theories predict that rates of charge transfer vary with the dielectric properties of the environment where the reaction occurs. An appropriate description of this relation for molecular sensitized semiconductors in electrolytes must account for the restricted geometry of these systems compared to "free" molecules in solution. Here, we explore the extent to which dielectric properties of the surrounding medium can explain the rates of charge transfer processes, measured using transient absorption spectroscopy, involving photo-oxidized thiophene-carbazole-based molecules on oxide semiconductors in inert or redox-active electrolytes. We observe no clear correlation between the activation energy of hole hopping between molecules on oxide surfaces or the recombination rate between photogenerated electrons in the oxide and holes on the adsorbed molecules and the dielectric properties of the surrounding solvent. The activation energy of hole hopping tends to increase with time following initial photogeneration of the holes, which we attribute to energetic disorder in the molecular monolayer. The recombination rate in different solvents scales with the hole hopping rate. It can also be varied by adding inert salts in the electrolyte and by controlling the access of cations in solution to the oxide surface. Finally, we show that fast electron transfer from cobalt complexes to photo-oxidized molecules in solvents with low polarity is verified, but the kinetics are limited by the ionic dissociation. Our study highlights the importance of electronic coupling between the redox-active components and their solvation, besides the reorganization energy and the driving force, in the determination of electron transfer rates at molecular sensitized interfaces in electrolytes.