Three classes (carbides, nitrides and oxides) of nanoscaled early-transition-metal catalysts have been proposed to replace the expensive Pt catalyst as counter electrodes (CEs) in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs). Of these catalysts, Cr3C2, CrN, VC(N), VN, TiC, TiC(N), TiN, and V2O3 all showed excellent catalytic activity for the reduction of I-3(-) to I- in the electrolyte. Further, VC embedded in mesoporous carbon (VC-MC) was prepared through in situ synthesis. The I-3(-)/I- DSC based on the VC-MC CE reached a high power conversion efficiency (PCE) of 7.63%, comparable to the photovoltaic performance of the DSC using a Pt CE (7.50%). In addition, the carbide catalysts demonstrated catalytic activity higher than that of Pt for the regeneration of a new organic redox couple of T-2/T-. The T-2/T- DSCs using TiC and VC-MC CEs showed PCEs of 4.96 and 5.15%, much higher than that of the DSC using a Pt CE (3.66%). This work expands the list of potential CE catalysts, which can help reduce the cost of DSCs and thereby encourage their fundamental research and commercial application.
2012. Vol. 134, no 7, 3419-3428 p.