А.O. El-Ballouli, E. Alarousu, M. Bernardi, S.M. Aly, A.P. Lagrow, O.M. Bakr, and O.F. Mohammed
J. Am. Chem. Soc., 136 (19), 6952-6959, (2014)
Quantum dot (QD) solar cells have emerged as promising low-cost alternatives to existing photovoltaic technologies. Here, we investigate charge transfer and separation at PbS QDs and phenyl-C61-butyric acid methyl ester (PCBM) interfaces using a combination of femtosecond broadband transient absorption (TA) spectroscopy and steady-state photoluminescence quenching measurements. We analyzed ultrafast electron injection and charge separation at PbS QD/PCBM interfaces for four different QD sizes and as a function of PCBM concentration. The results reveal that the energy band alignment, tuned by the quantum size effect, is the key element for efficient electron injection and charge separation processes. More specifically, the steady-state and time-resolved data demonstrate that only small-sized PbS QDs with a bandgap larger than 1 eV can transfer electrons to PCBM upon light absorption. We show that these trends result from the formation of a type-II interface band alignment, as a consequence of the size distribution of the QDs. Transient absorption data indicate that electron injection from photoexcited PbS QDs to PCBM occurs within our temporal resolution of 120 fs for QDs with bandgaps that achieve type-II alignment, while virtually all signals observed in smaller bandgap QD samples result from large bandgap outliers in the size distribution. Taken together, our results clearly demonstrate that charge transfer rates at QD interfaces can be tuned by several orders of magnitude by engineering the QD size distribution. The work presented here will advance both the design and the understanding of QD interfaces for solar energy conversion.