Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Engineering Science


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering


Paul Charpentier


Solar energy is a promising solution towards meeting the world’s ever-growing energy demand. Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) are hybrid organic-inorganic solar cells with potential for commercial application, but are plagued by inefficiency due to their poor sunlight absorption. Silver nanoparticles have been shown to enhance the absorptive properties of DSSCs, but their plasmonic resonance causes local hot spots, resulting in cell deterioration. This thesis studies the mitigation of thermal energy loss of plasmon-enhanced DSSCs by the co-incorporation of zirconia, a well-known thermostabilizer, into the cell’s photoactive material. TiO2 was also synthesized using green bio-sourced solvents in supercritical CO2 to compare its performance in DSSCs to conventionally-synthesized TiO2. Using an integrated approach to materials synthesis, characterization, cell fabrication, and solar simulation testing, it is shown that 5 molar % zirconia doping improves the photovoltaic performance of DSSCs by as much as 44%. Further, two optimized plasmonic cell architectures are presented that increase optical absorption and photocurrent in DSSCs. The integration of these nanomaterials into solar cells highlights easy fabrication methods, contributes to the development and commercialization of inexpensive and high-efficiency DSSCs, and may benefit other types of solar-harvesting devices.