Spacer effects of donor-π spacer-acceptor sensitizers on photophysical properties in dye-sensitized solar cells

Chun Jui Tan, Chin Sheng Yang, Yung Ching Sheng, Helda Wika Amini, Hui Hsu Gavin Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The donor (D)-π spacer-acceptor (A) framework with electronic push-pull effects provides suitable molecular architectures for molecular design used as efficient light-harvesting sensitizers in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). Efficiencies of light harvesting and electron injection to the semiconductor of sensitizers play critical roles in DSSC performance. Here, we employed density functional theory to systematically and comparatively investigate the effects of π-spacers of D-π spacer-A types of dyes in solution and adsorbed on a (TiO2)38 anatase cluster on various photophysical properties. The absorption spectra, electron transfer probability, and related photophysical properties of D-π spacer-A types of dyes were investigated as functions of different types (thiophene (Th)- and phenyl (Ph)-based), lengths, and planarity (bridging two neighboring rings; dithieno-thiophene (DTT) and fluorene (FL)-based) of π-spacers, while the D (diphenylamine) and A (cyano-acrylic acid) moieties remained the same. Spacers could significantly influence the λmax values and electron transfer probability. The spacer length has a red-shifted effect in λmax for the Th-, DTT-, and FL-based sensitizers due to their planar conjugated structures; nevertheless, the λmax values are saturated by ring number three. In contrast, the Ph-based spacers induce a blue-shift in λmax with spacer length due to their nonplanar structures. Interestingly, the Th- and DTT-based spacers with lower LUMO energy levels trap more electron density and thus reduce the probability of electron density transfer to TiO2 ψETmax, TiO2) upon photoexcitation; moreover, the ψETmax, TiO2) values decrease significantly with ring number. On the other hand, the ψETmax, TiO2) values for the Ph- and FL-based sensitizers are less sensitive to the spacer length. Interestingly, the orders of theoretical maximum short-circuit current density of four studied families of molecules are correlated with their λmax values. Our study shows the Th-Th motif used as a π-spacer balances the spectral match with solar radiation and ψETmax, TiO2) suitable for DSSC applications. Our results based on molecular and electronic structures could be used for rational sensitizer design of organic dyes for DSSC applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21272-21284
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number38
StatePublished - 29 Sep 2016


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