Journal article

Atomic-Scale Observation of Multiconformational Binding and Energy Level Alignment of Ruthenium-Based Photosensitizers on TiO2 Anatase

Dye-sensitized solar cells constitute a promising approach to sustainable and low-cost solar energy conversion. Their overall efficiency crucially depends on the effective coupling of the photosensitizers to the photoelectrode and the details of the dye's energy levels at the interface. Despite great efforts, the specific binding of prototypical ruthenium-based dyes to TiO2, their potential supramolecular interaction, and the interrelation between adsorption geometry and electron injection efficiency lack experimental evidence. Here we demonstrate multiconformational adsorption and energy level alignment of single N3 dyes on TiO2 anatase (101) revealed by scanning tunnelling microscopy and spectroscopy. The distinctly bound molecules show significant variations of their excited State levels associated with different driving forces for photoelectron injection. These findings emphasize the critical role of the interfacial coupling and suggest that further designs of dye-sensitized solar cells should target a higher selectivity in the dye-substrate binding conformations in order to ensure efficient electron injection from all photosensitizers.


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