Strong Pinned-Spin-Mediated Memory Effect in NiO Nanoparticles
Photoactive NiO electrodes for cathodic dye-sensitised solar cells (p-DSCs) have been prepared with thicknesses ranging between 0.4 and 3.0 μm by spray-depositing pre-formed NiO nanoparticles on fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO) coated glass substrates. The larger thicknesses were obtained in sequential sintering steps using a conventional furnace (CS) and a newly developed rapid discharge sintering (RDS) method. The latter procedure is employed for the first time for the preparation of p-DSCs. In particular, RDS represents a scalable procedure that is based on microwave-assisted plasma formation that allows the production in series of mesoporous NiO electrodes with large surface areas for p-type cell photocathodes. RDS possesses the unique feature of transmitting heat from the bulk of the system towards its outer interfaces with controlled confinement of the heating zone. The use of RDS results in a drastic reduction of processing times with respect to other deposition methods that involve heating/calcination steps with associated reduced costs in terms of energy. P1-dye sensitized NiO electrodes obtained via the RDS procedure have been tested in DSC devices and their performances have been analysed and compared with those of cathodic DSCs derived from CS-deposited samples. The largest conversion efficiencies (0.12%) and incident photon-to-current conversion efficiencies, IPCEs (50%), were obtained with sintered NiO electrodes having thicknesses of ~1.5-2.0 μm. In all the devices, the photogenerated holes in NiO live significantly longer (τ(h) ~ 1 s) than have previously been reported for P1-sensitized NiO photocathodes. In addition, P1-sensitised sintered electrodes give rise to relatively high photovoltages (up to 135 mV) when the triiodide-iodide redox couple is used.