Electron transfer in sensitized TiO₂ systems studied by time resolved surface second hermonic generation

Williams, Kenrick John
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Obtaining abundant, clean, sustainable energy has become an increasingly large need globally. To date, solar cells have had a limited impact in meeting energy demands. This is primarily due to their relatively high cost and low power conversion efficiencies. Sensitized solar cells, or Grätzel cells, have the potential for being made with low cost materials, and achieving power conversion efficiency high enough to economically compete with fossil fuels. Understanding the dynamics of charge carriers as they separate at the interface of the light absorbing donor and their semiconducting acceptor becomes an important first step in the realization of an inexpensive and efficient sensitized solar cell. Presented is the theory of treating electrons at donor-acceptor interfaces, and why time-resolved surface second harmonic generation (TR-SHG) is used to probe the dynamics of charge carriers at these interfaces. A series of experiments are described where various preparations of thin films of sensitizers on single crystal titanium dioxide, a common acceptor in Grätzel cells, are prepared and studied. TR-SHG studies of thin films of colloidal PbSe and CdSe QDs showed remarkably different electron cooling and transfer dynamics. The electron cooling in PbSe is thermally activated in PbSe QDs. By cooling samples, electron transfer from higher excited “hot” states was observed. Contrary, for CdSe QDs electron transfer rates were dependent on the energy of the excited state. When higher states were excited, charge transfer rates decreased, indicating that only low energy, electrically “cold”, states participate in charge transfer. When carbon based grapheme QDs are used, the electron dynamics mimic PbSe QDs. In this system, increasing the pump energy leads to slower recombination rates, indicating that electrons have to drift further back to the interface.