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WIREs Energy Environ.
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Metallic and plastic dye solar cells

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Abstract Dye solar cells (DSCs) are quite a new technology in photovoltaics. The traditional DSCs are prepared on conductively coated glass substrates in high temperature using a batch process. Manufacturing the cells on low‐cost metal and plastic substrates would enable significant cost reductions as well as roll‐to‐roll mass production. There is a selection of metals and possible conducting coatings for plastics with varying electrical, optical, and chemical properties and price. The substrate has a dominant impact on the methods and materials that can be applied to make the cell and consequently on the resulting performance of the device. Furthermore, the substrates influence significantly the stability of the device. The main issue with plastics is their permeability whereas with metals, chemical stability in the electrolyte is themain concern. The leakage of electrolyte and the impact of water intake through the plastics can be affected by the material choices in particular with the electrolyte and dye composition. In the case of the metallic electrodes, the chemical stability can be improved by choosing a corrosion‐resistant metal, applying a blocking layer or changing to a less aggressive electrolyte. One major focus of the current research of the flexible DSCs is increasing the efficiency by improved low‐temperature preparation methods and materials especially for the photoelectrode. Another significant challenge is the development of noncorrosive electrolyte and dye combinations that work well even in the presence of significant amounts of water. This article is categorized under: Photovoltaics > Science and Materials Energy Research & Innovation > Science and Materials
Structure of different flexible cells and their major pros and cons. The image is not in scale. PE, photoelectrode; CE, counter electrode; TCO, transparent conductive oxide.
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Development of flexible electrodes for dye solar cells (DSCs) on a rough time line. The initial flexible DSCs were completely on plastics and the development of those is described by the lowest branch. The metal‐based counter electrodes were introduced next and that cell structure is shown by the middle branch. After that the concept of metal‐based photoelectrodes was developed and that is described by the highest branch. The most important developments are with bold font. The light gray dashed line and the light gray texts represent objectives and possible developments of the future.
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Demonstration cell made with photoelectrode on stainless steel and counter electrode on indium tin oxide–polyethylene terephthalate showing pattering possibilities as well as good flexibility.
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Illustration of stability issues affecting a plastic‐based electrode.
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State‐of‐the‐art efficiency for different methods to prepare titanium dioxide (TiO2) photoelectrodes on plastic substrates and when it was achieved. The efficiency records of plastic photoelectrodes (some with the same technique) are marked with red diamonds and the logarithmic trend line is based on those. The methods resulting low efficiencies and reports on minor improvements were left out.
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