Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells: Wrapping It Up

Whew, ten weeks of research flew by! There never seems to be enough time for the things you enjoy doing.  Labbing it up in the ISC was a great experience (even if there was a lack of warm sunshine or windows).  Thanks to those of you who kept up with my blog posts! Now it’s time to take a look at the big picture.  To rewind my memory tape of what happened, let’s synthesize my blog posts and start from the beginning!

With the help of my advisor and labmates, the goal of this summer project was to study para-rhodamine B in comparison with its rhodamine relatives, R6G and RB.  We believe that PRB could be a better dye for DSSCs because of the functional group in the para position – that location has easier access to covalently bond with the semiconductor, translating into higher efficiency of the DSSC system.

Reading papers with relevant experiments and making sure I understood the main concepts (i.e., blinking, fluorescence) related to our research were the topics I focused early on.  Reading a math packet put together by one of my labmates that explained the background of our analysis was especially eye opening! Although reading through the math material was like eating an overdone burger, I chewed my way through it and feel like I now have a better understanding of our analysis process.

Reading made up one part of the research as we made significant progress on the collection of PRB on glass and TiO2.  Changes to data collection from the previous rhodamines for PRB included a change in concentration (to make sure aggregation wasn’t occurring) and a decrease in power for PRB on TiO2.  Conducting control tests such as these put a hamper in our time schedule, eating into collection time, but they were necessary to do.  However, we were able to collect over 100 PRB molecules on glass and on TiO2 each, giving us (hopefully) sufficient data to run a preliminary analysis.

In the meantime, our second microscope underwent various check-ups and tweaks.  Installing the optics to make sure the laser goes into the microscope and adjusting the computer program that collects the numerical data were part of the process.  When it’s up and running that means collecting information on the rhodamines will be even faster!

Now you may ask me, “But what does this all mean?  Did you find what you were looking for?” Cue a little sigh.  Yes and no is the answer I’ll give to you.

By collecting all of these PRB molecules on glass and TiO2, the math analysis indicates that the behavior of PRB is similar to R6G and RB which is kind of cool because that may mean we’re finding some kind of pattern for the on and off times for rhodamine.  However, as we collected the data and noted the difficulties of collecting PRB, we think that PRB is different enough from R6G and RB to be a better dye that covalently bonds with the semiconductor TiO2.  Unfortunately, we cannot confirm that alone from this experiment; a different type of experiment will need to be conducted to confirm our suspicions about PRB or a different type of analysis.  (I’m totally crossing my fingers for the next steps in what PRB has to show us!)

A summer steeped with science further strengthened my determination and patience to accomplish goals! I hope you had a fruitful summer with awesome stories to tell! As I hope you can feel from these few blogs, the field of alternative energy, especially with advancements in PV technology, is booming and teeming with new ideas and answers to all sorts of questions.  (Plus, science is awesome.) I can’t wait to see what the next years with this lab will bring.  Thanks again for sticking around!