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Keywords:

  • dye solar cell;
  • flexible;
  • plastic substrate;
  • metal substrate;
  • optical fiber;
  • carbon nanomaterials

Abstract

This review presents an overview of the current state of research on nanostructured titanium dioxide dye solar cells (DSCs) on alternative substrates to glass. Replacing the traditionally used heavy, rigid, and expensive glass substrate with materials such as plastic foils or metal sheets is crucial to enable large volume cost-efficient roll-to-roll type industrial scale manufacturing of the cells and to make this solar cell technology properly competitive with silicon and thin film photovoltaic devices. One of the biggest problems with plastic substrates is their low-temperature tolerance, which makes sintering of the photoelectrode films impossible, whereas with metals, their corrosion resistance against the iodine-containing electrolyte typically used in DSCs limits the amount of metal materials suitable for substrates. However, significant progress has been made in developing new materials, electrode film deposition and post-treatment methods suitable for low-temperature processing. Also, metals that do not corrode in the presence of iodine electrolyte have been found and successfully employed as DSC substrates. The highest power conversion efficiencies obtained with plastic and metal substrates are already 7–9%, which is not far from the best glass cell efficiencies, 10–11%, and comparable also to, for example, amorphous silicon solar cell efficiencies. One of the most important of the remaining research challenges of DSCs on flexible substrates is to ensure that the long-term stability of the cells is realistic to consumer applications, for example, with providing efficient enough encapsulation to prevent water and other impurities penetration into the cells. Degradation mechanisms specific to metal-based cells are another issue that needs deeper understanding still. More exotic approaches such as depositing the DSC structure on optical fiber or employing carbon nanomaterials to increase the cell efficiency are also discussed in this paper. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.