Highly efficient photocathodes for dye-sensitized tandem solar cells
Thin-film dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) based on mesoporous semiconductor electrodes are low-cost alternatives to conventional silicon devices1,2. High-efficiency DSCs typically operate as photoanodes (n-DSCs), where photocurrents result from dye-sensitized electron injection into n-type semiconductors. Dye-sensitized photocathodes (p-DSCs) operate in an inverse mode, where dye-excitation is followed by rapid electron transfer from a p-type semiconductor to the dye (dye-sensitized hole injection). Such p-DSCs and n-DSCs can be combined to construct tandem solar cells3 (pn-DSCs) with a theoretical efficiency limitation well beyond that of single-junction DSCs (ref. 4). Nevertheless, the efficiencies of such tandem pn-DSCs have so far been hampered by the poor performance of the available p-DSCs (refs 3, 5–15). Here we show for the first time that p-DSCs can convert absorbed photons to electrons with yields of up to 96%, resulting in a sevenfold increase in energy conversion efficiency compared with previously reported photocathodes7. The donor–acceptor dyes, studied as photocathodic sensitizers, comprise a variable-length oligothiophene bridge, which provides control over the spatial separation of the photogenerated charge carriers. As a result, charge recombination is decelerated by several orders of magnitude and tandem pn-DSCs can be constructed that exceed the efficiency of their individual components.