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Title: Integration of liquid crystals with redox electrolytes in dye-sensitised solar cells
Author: Bin Kamarudin, Muhammad Akmal
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 0303
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis examines the electro-optic, electric and electrochemical properties of liquid crystal (LC) materials in self-assembly systems, that is, liquid crystal-polymer electrolyte composites (LC-PEs), LC binary mixtures, and their potential application in dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSCs). The birefringence of LCs causes light modulation, which can be controlled by an applied voltage and electric field. In particular, the LCs are used as one of the components for the electrolyte redox couple which is responsible for charge transfer mechanism in DSSCs. In this work, LC-PEs were developed by dissolving LCs in polymer electrolytes; using a homologous series of cyanobiphenyls in a range of concentrations, alkyl chain lengths and dielectric permittivities. We found that doping the polymer electrolyte with 15% 4'-cyano-4'-pentylbiphenyl (5CB) improved ionic conductivity by up to 13 % compared to pure polymer electrolyte. Materials with positive dielectric permittivity and shorter alkyl chain length have been identified to be compatible with iodide/triiodide (I^-/I_3^-)-based polymer electrolytes. In DSSCs, 15% 5CB and 15% E7 LC-PEs exhibited the best efficiencies of 3.6 % and 4.0 %, respectively. In addition to LC-PEs, the self-assembly properties of smectic phase LCs were also utilised as templates for controlling the polymer structure in polymer electrolytes. A porous polymer network was prepared using various techniques including self-assembly, by applying an electric field and using a polyimide (PI) alignment layer. We found that the electrochemical and photovoltaic properties of these materials strongly correlated to the morphology/structure with the self-assembled structure, thus showing the best photovoltaic performance (5.9 %) even when compared with a reference solar cell (4.97 %). Finally, this thesis explores the interaction of LCs with graphene (Gr) in DSSC device architectures. Gr-based DSSCs were fabricated using different processing conditions, with the result being that Gr improved the performance of the DSSCs. The highest efficiency obtained was 5.48 % compared to the 4.86 % of a reference DSSC. The incorporation of LC-PEs in Gr-based DSSCs improved the performance of DSSCs was observed in devices with low concentrations of LCs due to the Gr inducing planar alignment of LCs. These results suggest a new strategy to improve DSSC efficiency by incorporating LC materials in the polymer electrolyte component. Even though these LCs are highly insulating, their self-assembly and dielectric polarisability help enhance ionic conductivity and optical scattering when doped into polymer electrolytes. This work can be extended in a fundamental way to elucidate the ionic conduction mechanism of LC-based electrolyte systems. Furthermore, it would be interesting if the benefits of using LC-PEs and smectic-templated polymer electrolytes (Sm-Pes) can be translated further in commercial electrochemical energy conversion systems.
Supervisor: Wilkinson, Timothy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Liquid Crystals ; Dye-sensitised Solar Cells ; Self-assembled soft matter ; Graphene