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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Engineering (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Advisor 1

Yun Hang Hu

Committee Member 1

Stephen A. Hackney

Committee Member 2

Ranjit Pati

Committee Member 3

Feng Zhao


Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) present promising low-cost alternatives to the conventional Silicon (Si)-based solar cells. The counter electrode (CE), as an important component of DSSC, collects electrons from external circuit and catalyzes the reduction of electrolyte. This dissertation research focused on: (1) metal nitride/conductive polymer composites, (2) transition metal dichalcogenides, and (3) carbon nanomaterials. The performances of these materials in DSSCs were also investigated in this dissertation.

Chapter 3 of this dissertation indicates that ZrN can be an efficient promoter for PEDOT:PSS CE in DSSCs because of its excellent electrical conductivity, leading to a remarkable increase in the power conversion efficiency (PCE) from 3.46% to 6.68%.

In Chapter 4, 1T metallic MoS2 film, as a rapidly rising star in electrical materials, was directly grown onto fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO) conducting glass as a DSSC CE. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that the DSSC with the 1T metallic MoS2 CE exhibited an excellent PCE of 7.08%, which is 3 times larger than that (1.72%) of the DSSC with 2H phase MoS2.

Numerous approaches, such as mechanical cleavage, chemical vapor deposition, and epitaxial growth, have been developed to synthesized the first generation graphene. However, for its practical applications, synthesis of free-standing graphene sheets with controllable shape as three dimensional structure is important. This dissertation invented chemical reactions for the synthesis of 3D carbon nanomaterials, which processing high electrical conductivity and large accessible surface areas. Four chemical reactions were invented, namely, Na2O can react with CO to synthesize carbon nanosheets and carbon nanofibers, which are dependent on synthesis temperature; 3D cauliflower-fungus-like graphene (CFG) can be synthesized via a simple reaction between the Li liquid and CO2 gas; the reaction of CO2 and Na can produce 3D crape myrtle flower-like graphene (CMFG); and Na-embedded carbon (Na@C) nano-walls, which solved the contradiction between high electrical conductivity and large accessible surface area, can be synthesized by the reaction of CO with liquid Na. Furthermore, those materials showed excellent performance as electrodes for energy conversion device—dye-sensitized solar cells.