A comparative study of quasi-solid nanoclay gel electrolyte and liquid electrolyte dye sensitized solar cells
Dye sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) are currently being explored as a cheaper alternative to the more common silicon (Si) solar cell technology. In addition to the cost advantages, DSSCs show good performance in low light conditions and are not sensitive to varying angles of incident light like traditional Si cells. One of the major challenges facing DSSCs is loss of the liquid electrolyte, through evaporation or leakage, which lowers stability and leads to increased degradation. Current research with solid-state and quasi-solid DSSCs has shown success regarding a reduction of electrolyte loss, but at a cost of lower conversion efficiency output. The research work presented in this paper focuses on the effects of using nanoclay material as a gelator in the electrolyte of the DSSC. The data showed that the quasi-solid cells are more stable than their liquid electrolyte counterparts, and achieved equal or better I-V characteristics. The quasi-solid cells were fabricated with a gel electrolyte that was prepared by adding 7 wt% of Nanoclay, Nanomer® (1.31PS, montmorillonite clay surface modified with 15-35% octadecylamine and 0.5-5 wt% aminopropyltriethoxysilane, Aldrich) to the iodide/triiodide liquid electrolyte, (Iodolyte AN-50, Solaronix). Various gel concentrations were tested in order to find the optimal ratio of nanoclay to liquid. The gel electrolyte made with 7 wt% nanoclay was more viscous, but still thin enough to allow injection with a standard syringe. Batches of cells were fabricated with both liquid and gel electrolyte and were evaluated at STC conditions (25°C, 100 mW/cm2) over time. The gel cells achieved efficiencies as high as 9.18% compared to 9.65% achieved by the liquid cells. After 10 days, the liquid cell decreased to 1.75%, less than 20% of its maximum efficiency. By contrast, the gel cell's efficiency increased for two weeks, and did not decrease to 20% of maximum efficiency until 45 days. After several measurements, the liquid cells showed visible signs of leakage through the sealant, whereas the gel cells did not. This resistance to leakage likely contributed to the improved performance of the quasi-solid cells over time, and is a significant advantage over liquid electrolyte DSSCs.