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Photoinduced Electron Injection in a Fully Solvated Dye-Sensitized Photoanode: A Dynamical Semiempirical Study

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journal contribution
posted on 09.12.2020, 17:35 authored by Jan Paul Menzel, Anastasios Papadopoulos, Jelena Belić, Huub J. M. de Groot, Lucas Visscher, Francesco Buda
Dye-sensitized solar cells and dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical cells have attracted much interest in recent years for solar energy conversion. More effort is still required to increase the efficiency of these devices, which is closely linked to the crucial process of photoinduced charge separation. Computational studies can provide insights into this fundamental process and suggest molecular components and interfaces that feature optimal energy-level alignment before time-consuming trial-and-error experimental realization. Here, we use a combination of density functional based tight binding and an extended Hückel approach to perform quantum classical simulations of photoinduced electron injection in a TiO2 dye-sensitized photoanode with explicit solvation at a reasonable computational cost. In particular, we evaluate injection capabilities of core-extended naphthalene diimide (NDI) dyes with three different anchoring groups. Our results stress the importance of nuclear motion as well as conformational and trajectory sampling for a realistic description of the injection process. Furthermore, explicit solvation highly influences the conformational space explored by the dye and anchoring molecules, especially concerning the adsorption mode. Taking these effects into account, the core-extended NDI with a catechol-based anchoring moiety is shown to be the most promising ultrafast electron injector. Our strategy allows for a more systematic computational search for appropriate molecular chromophores in dye-sensitized devices for solar energy conversion.