Ultrafast charge separation dynamics in opaque, operational dye-sensitized solar cells revealed by femtosecond diffuse reflectance spectroscopy
Efficient dye-sensitized solar cells are based on highly diffusive mesoscopic layers that render these devices opaque and unsuitable for ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy measurements in transmission mode. We developed a novel sub-200 femtosecond time-resolved diffuse reflectance spectroscopy scheme combined with potentiostatic control to study various solar cells in fully operational condition. We studied performance optimized devices based on liquid redox electrolytes and opaque TiO2 films, as well as other morphologies, such as TiO2 fibers and nanotubes. Charge injection from the Z907 dye in all TiO2 morphologies was observed to take place in the sub-200 fs time scale. The kinetics of electron-hole back recombination has features in the picosecond to nanosecond time scale. This observation is significantly different from what was reported in the literature where the electron-hole back recombination for transparent films of small particles is generally accepted to occur on a longer time scale of microseconds. The kinetics of the ultrafast electron injection remained unchanged for voltages between +500 mV and –690 mV, where the injection yield eventually drops steeply. The primary charge separation in Y123 organic dye based devices was clearly slower occurring in two picoseconds and no kinetic component on the shorter femtosecond time scale was recorded.