With proven efficiencies now in excess of 13%, the dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) invented by Michael Grätzel in 1991 represents one of the most promising next-generation solar cell technologies. This device relies on electron-transfer from a photo-excited dye to a thin mesoporous semiconducting film on conducting glass. The dye molecule is subsequently reduced by a mediator, which, in turn, is regenerated at the cathode by electrons that migrate through the external load. To help bring the bulk manufacture of DSSCs to fruition, we are improving cell performance and stability by designing robust cyclometalated ruthenium dyes with improved absorbance profiles in the lower-energy region of the solar spectrum. We are also exploring ways to replace the expensive ruthenium chromophore using first-row transition metals and to replace conventional electrolytes in the DSSC.
The efficient conversion of sunlight into electricity is not the complete answer to the impending energy crisis - we need to be able to store and transport energy. In this regard, many have championed the hydrogen economy as a clean fuel, but hydrogen is currently derived from methane and other petroleum-based products. Our program is therefore set on designing molecular and heterogeneous electrocatalysts that are capable of extracting hydrogen from water. Our group is particularly interesting in gaining mechanistic information surrounding the complicated reaction landscape of water splitting, and to apply this information to commercially viable catalysts.