Titania Nanostructures for Photocatalytic and Photovoltaic Applications
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Titania has been the focus of attention for several decades owing to its chemical stability, non-toxicity, inexpensiveness and robust surface chemistry. Its technological applications include use in diverse areas such as photocatalytic reactors, antibacterial coatings, dye sensitive solar cells (DSSC) and more recently the perovskite solar cells to name a few. All of these applications are based on the ability to inject or generate electronhole pairs in titania and transport them to a suitable interface at which they are ejected to either engender a reaction as in photocatalysis or drive a load as in photovoltaics. From a technological perspective it is also important that such science be achieved and controlled in supported titania structures. The research reported in this thesis, thus, started with the development of a process for obtaining adherent titania films by oxidation of sputtered Ti films on stainless steel, a very commonly used substrate. Challenges that had to be overcome included the need to oxidize titanium to obtain the right phase mixture while preventing film cracking or delamination due to compressive stresses generated during anodic oxidation of Ti. During this process of obtaining nanostructured TiO2 through anodization, it was serendipitously discovered that planar TiO2 films obtained by oxidation of sputtered Ti films did significantly better than anodized nanoporous titania in bactericidal studies. This was then replicated in organic dye degradation studies. Analysis of the material showed that this improved performance was due to the unintentional contamination during sputtering by Cu, Zn, Mo possibly due to arcing across brass contacts. This quaternary system was then systematically explored and it was shown that an optimal metastable composition in the Ti- Cu-Mo oxide ternary system performs the best. DFT studies showed that this was due to introduction of shallow and deep states in the band gap that, depending on the level of dopants, either enhances carrier lifetimes or leads to recombination. In continuation of this work on supported titania structures by oxidation of Ti, a novel photoanode for use in dye sensitized photovoltaics was developed by oxidation of Ti foam. This results in an interconnected 3-D network of TiO2 that possess at its core a network of Ti. Such architecture was designed to provide a large surface area for anchoring the sensitizer while simultaneously reducing the distance that charge carriers have to travel before reaching the ohmic contacts to prevent recombination losses. The thesis discusses the preparation of such anodes, the properties of the 3-D oxide and cells, with up to 4% efficiency, developed using such anodes. Reasons for such behaviour and avenues for further exploration to improve cell efficiency will also be discussed.
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