Adsorption Dynamics of Redox Active Species onto Polarized Surfaces of Sensitized NiO

Mesoporous NiO films were deposited by means of a screen printing technique onto fluorine-doped tin oxide transparent electrodes and consequently sensitized with Erythrosin B (EryB) dye. The obtained colored NiO material was used as a working electrode in a three-electrode cell to study the evolution of the triple semiconductor/dye/electrolyte interface upon electrochemical polarization in dark conditions. The electrolyte was a solution of I3/I in acetonitrile, with the redox couple representing the typical redox shuttle of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs). The adopted electrochemical conditions were devised in order to simulate the actual electrical environment of the NiO/dye photocathode in a light-soaked DSC. The use of a benchmark sensitizer EryB and of the most widely used redox mediator I3/I is particularly meaningful for the study of the adsorption dynamics and the determination of possible degradative phenomena on the basis of the behavior of numerous analogue systems. Therefore, for the first time, the evolution of the NiO/EryB/I3/I multiple interface was investigated combining the electrochemical characterization with ex situ spectroscopic analysis by means of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The resulting picture shows that EryB in the immobilized state promotes the redox processes based on the I3/I couple. Moreover, the EryB sensitizer inhibits the phenomena of recombination between the metal oxide semiconductor and the redox couple.