First Principles Modeling of Eosin-Loaded ZnO Films: A Step toward the Understanding of Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell Performances

A theoretical investigation of eosin-Y (EY) loaded ZnO thin films, the basic components of a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC), is presented. The EY/ZnO wurtzite (10−10) system has been fully described within a periodic approach using density functional theory (DFT) and a hybrid exchange-correlation functional. Reduced systems were also analyzed to simulate an electron transfer from the dye to the substrate. Injection times from dye to the semiconductor were calculated using the Newns−Anderson approach. Finally, the UV−visible spectra of EY/ZnO films were simulated using a time-dependent DFT approach and compared to that of the EY molecule computed in solution. The results obtained highlight that EY strongly adsorbs on the ZnO substrate contributing significantly to the electronic structure of the adsorbed system. The UV−visible spectral signature of the isolated EY molecule is still found when adsorbed on ZnO but the analysis of Γ-point crystalline orbitals reveals that a direct HOMO→LUMO excitation cannot lead to a direct electron injection into the semiconductor, the first unoccupied orbital with contributions from the ZnO substrate being the LUMO + 1. As a consequence, a two photon injection mechanism is proposed explaining the low efficiency of the EY/ZnO solar cells. On this basis, possible strategies for enhancing the cell efficiency are presented and discussed.