Fabrication of optimized eco-friendly dye-sensitized solar cells by extracting pigments from low-cost native wild plants
The major proportion of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) fabrication cost is attributed to the pigments. In this study, to increase the performance/cost ratio of DSSCs, we used several wild regional plants of Persian Gulf zone for natural pigment production. At first, the optimum conditions for pigment extraction were obtained for all plants using response surface methodology. The results showed that increasing temperature, as well as extraction time, increased the pigment extraction efficiency while the pH of the solution did not exert a significant effect on the extraction process. Besides, the microwave-assisted method and pure ethanol have the highest extraction efficiency compared to ordinary solvent extraction and water as the extraction method and solvent, respectively. Moreover, all pigments were characterized using circular dichroism, dynamic light scattering, and zeta potential techniques. The results showed that the extracted pigments from Malva verticillata have the highest optical activity while all kinds of pigments tend to make aggregates 12 h after the extraction. Finally, the effectiveness of each pigment was evaluated as a sensitizer in natural DSSCs that fabricated using the doctor blade technique. Based on the photovoltaic results of the DSSCs sensitized with extracted pigments, the open circuit voltage and short circuit current ranged from 0.35 to 0.542 and 0.802 to 1.702 , respectively. The Microwave-assisted Malva verticillata-DSSC owned the highest energy conversion efficiency of 1.702% as well as the comparable open circuit voltage to that of the reference DSSC that made using synthetic sensitizer. This superiority could be attributed to the highest pigments concentration as well as the highest pigments optical activity of Malva verticillata. Moreover, the results showed that the LUMO energy level and the band gap of the extracted pigments from Malva verticillata are better than the other natural pigments for DSSC fabrication. Besides, due to the presence of carbonyl and hydroxyl groups in chemical structures of extracted pigment from Malva verticillata, an effective bond between the pigment and TiO2 surface might be achieved and thereby increasing the energy conversion efficiency.