Carbon nanomaterials as counter electrodes for dye solar cells

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The dye solar cell (DSC) is an interesting emerging technology for photovoltaic conversion of solar electromagnetic energy to electrical energy. The DSC is based mainly on cheap starting materials and it can be manufactured by roll-to-roll deposition techniques on flexible substrates, which is considered as one option for cost-effective large-scale solar cell production. The most expensive component of the DSC is the transparent conductive oxide glass substrate, and considerable cost reductions can be achieved by changing it to e.g. a plastic substrate. Plastic substrates are very flexible, lightweight and transparent. The state of the art DSC catalyst is thermally deposited or sputtered platinum, but platinum is a rare and expensive metal. Carbon, on the other hand, is widely available and some of its nanomaterials conduct electricity and are catalytic toward the DSC counter electrode (CE) reduction reaction. In this work, carbon nanomaterials and their composites were studied as the DSC CE active material. The materials were random network single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) film on glass and plastic substrate, vertically aligned multiwalled carbon nanotube "forest" film on steel and quartz substrate and carbon nanoparticle composite film on indium tin oxide-polyethylene terephthalate (ITO-PET) substrate. After comparison of the materials, the SWCNT network film on PET was chosen as the main CE type of this study, since it offers superior conductivity, transparency and flexibility over the other carbon-based CEs, it is also the thinnest and contains only one active material component. When a 30 % transparent SWCNT network film on PET was tested as a DSC CE, it was found out that such a film is not catalytic and conductive enough for a full 1 sun illumination DSC device, but the film could be suitable for a indoor illumination level application. The catalytic properties of a 10 % transparent SWCNT film were improved by depositing conductive PEDOT polymer on the film, and the DSC with such film as the CE had similar efficiency than the reference DSC with a sputtered Pt on ITO-PET CE. The PEDOT-SWCNT film had superior catalytic performance over the studied Pt films. Thus, it can be concluded that carbon nanotube network films and their composite films are a feasible alternative flexible, roll-to-roll depositable DSC CE material.
Translated title of the contributionHiilinanomateriaalit väriaineaurinkokennon vastaelektrodeina
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Lund, Peter, Supervising Professor
  • Halme, Janne, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-4627-3
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-4628-0
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • dye solar cell
  • counter electrode
  • carbon
  • nanomaterial
  • nanotube
  • nanoparticle
  • flexible
  • plastic

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