Open Access
Abrams, Neal Mathew
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 14, 2005
Committee Members:
  • Thomas E Mallouk, Committee Chair
  • Karl Todd Mueller, Committee Member
  • Christine Dolan Keating, Committee Member
  • Vincent Henry Crespi, Committee Member
  • dye sensitized solar cell
  • Gratzel cell
  • photonic crystal
  • solar cell
<p> Solar energy conversion is dominated by expensive solid-state photovoltaic cells. As low-cost cells continue to develop, the dye sensitized solar cell has generated considerable interest as an efficient alternative. Although already moderately efficient, this cell offers numerous areas for improvement, both electronically and optically. Solar conversion efficiencies have been studied by modifying optical pathways through these dye-sensitized solar cells, or Grätzel cells. Monochromatic incident-to-photon current efficiency (IPCE) data reveals that an inverse opal photonic crystal or other disordered layer coupled to a nanocrystalline TiO<sub>2</sub> layer enhances photocurrent efficiency by illumination from the counter electrode direction. Modifying the cell architecture to allow for illumination through the working electrode yields similar increased enhancements by proper selection of the photonic bandgap. Direct growth of TiO<sub>2</sub> inverse opals on a nanocrystalline slab was accomplished by polymer infiltration of the slab, followed by crystal growth and liquid phase deposition. Results demonstrate that the bilayer architecture contributes to the enhanced light harvesting rather than the inverse opal layer and is due, in part, to strong light localization, Bragg diffraction and enhanced scattering. These effects occur solely at the bilayer interface and largely contribute to the photocurrent enhancements in the 540 – 750 nm region where the sensitizer dye is a poor absorber. TiO2 sculptured thin films were also studied and offer promise for the development of efficient solid-state dye cells.</p> <p> Visible light undergoes effective solar energy conversion by the typical dye-sensitized solar cells, but is detrimental to silicon solar cells. In contrast, near-infrared light is not utilized by these dye cells, but results in high efficiencies for silicon. Spectrum-splitting tandem cell architectures consisting of a Grätzel cell and a silicon photovoltaic module have been designed and tested. Spectral ranges were separated by reflecting near-infrared light using a hot-mirror coating on the Grätzel cell. A cell module was fabricating using 12 individual Grätzel cells and a single silicon concentrator and tested under solar conditions, yielding proof-of-principle data for the development of future modules. Colloidal crystals are large-scale analogs of inorganic crystals, and their synthesis has been developed into an educational lab for high school and undergraduate students.</p> <p> Colloidal crystals are self-assembled onto glass substrates, followed by polymer templating. This lab effectively introduces majors and non-majors alike to a unique area of materials synthesis with a modular approach towards synthesis, instrumentation, and characterization. The adaptability of this lab to various skill levels as well as opportunities for cooperative based learning makes this lab an excellent curricular addition.