Improved hybrid solar cells via in situ UV polymerization

Sanja Tepavcevic, Seth B. Darling, Nada M. Dimitrijevic, Tijana Rajh, Steven J. Sibener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


One approach for making inexpensive inorganic-organic hybrid photovoltaic (PV) cells is to fill highly ordered TiO2 nanotube (NT) arrays with solid organic hole conductors such as conjugated polymers. Here, a new in situ UV polymerization method for growing polythiophene (UV-PT) inside TiO 2 NTs is presented and compared to the conventional approach of infiltrating NTs with pre-synthesized polymer. A nanotubular TiO2 substrate is immersed in a 2, 5-diiodothiophene (DIT) monomer precursor solution and then irradiated with UV light. The selective UV photodissociation of the C-I bond produces monomer radicals with intact p-ring structure that further produce longer oligothiophene/PT molecules. Complete photoluminescence quenching upon UV irradiation suggests coupling between radicals created from DIT and at the TiO2 surface via a charge transfer complex. Coupling with the TiO2 surface improves UV-PT crystallinity and π-π stacking; flat photocurrent values show that charge recombination during hole transport through the polymer is negligible. A non-ideal, backside-illuminated setup under illumination of 620-nm light yields a photocurrent density of ≈5μA cm2-surprisingly much stronger than with comparable devices fabricated with polymer synthesized ex situ. Since in this backside architecture setup we illuminate the cell through the Ag top electrode, there is a possibility for Ag plasmon-enhanced solar energy conversion. By using this simple in situ UV polymerization method that couples the conjugated polymer to the TiO2 surface, the absorption of sunlight can be improved and the charge carrier mobility of the photoactive layer can be enhanced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1776-1783
Number of pages8
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 3 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Conducting polymers
  • Nanotubes
  • Photoconductivity
  • Self-assembly
  • Solar cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science


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