Morphology control on the 10 nm length scale in mesoporous TiO2 films is crucial for the manufacture of high-performance dye-sensitized solar cells. While the combination of block-copolymer self-assembly with sol–gel chemistry yields good results for very thin films, the shrinkage during the film manufacture typically prevents the build-up of sufficiently thick layers to enable optimum solar cell operation. Here, a study on the temporal evolution of block-copolymer-directed mesoporous TiO2 films during annealing and calcination is presented. The in-situ investigation of the shrinkage process enables the establishment of a simple and fast protocol for the fabrication of thicker films. When used as photoanodes in solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells, the mesoporous networks exhibit significantly enhanced transport and collection rates compared to the state-of-the-art nanoparticle-based devices. As a consequence of the increased film thickness, power conversion efficiencies above 4% are reached.
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