Solar energy has become an important component in the clean energy mix. There are several different kinds of solar cells that have been developed over decades. The focus of the first three chapters will be p-type dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), which are omnipotent for obtaining high efficiency and cost effective tandem DSSCs. The efficiency of p-type DSSCs lags behind their n-type counterpart due to being less investigated. Herein, the attempts to increase performance of the p-type component via molecular engineering of organic photosensitizers is described. Through the addition of bulky hydrophobic alkyl chains performance can be enhanced, though it was found that the location of these alkyl chains is a critical factor. Additionally, by adopting a double-acceptor single-donor design, as described in chapter 3, when employing the commonly used triphenylamine donor moiety, one can simultaneously increase the molar extinction coefficient while reducing the synthetic steps yielding one the fields top performing photosensitzers.
In addition to the conversion of solar energy to electrical energy, the storage of intermittent renewable energy is important. Energy can be stored mechanically (e.g. pumped hydro, fly wheels, compressed air, etc.), electrochemically (e.g. batteries and capacitors), or in chemical bonds (e.g. hydrolysis, carbon dioxide reduction, etc.). Of these methods hydrolysis to produce hydrogen has been identified as an attractive potential method. This is because hydrogen has high specific energy, can be transported, and used as a fuel in fuel cells emitting only water. The problem is industry currently employs steam-methane reforming to produce hydrogen, because catalysts currently employed for hydrolysis are expensive (i.e. noble metals) and/or unstable. Therefore finding a more abundant, lower cost, and stable catalyst which can be easily processed has been of importance. Molybdenum disulfide based catalysts have been identified as a good candidate because of their low Gibbs free energy of proton absorption. The molecular variants have the highest density of catalytically active sites, but suffer from desorption from electrode surfaces. Herein a molecular molybdenum disulfide catalyst is immobilized via polymer coordination yielding a catalytic material which can be easily processed into films via a resin. This produced stable catalytic films on electrode surfaces, which show good activity toward hydrogen evolution via water reduction.
Keywords: Solar energy, dye-sensitized solar cells, organic photosensitizers, molecular engineering, fuel cells, catalysts, Molybdenum disulfide, immobilized, polymer, hydrogen evolution, water reduction