Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
  • Publication
    Evaluation of microwave plasma oxidation treatments for the fabrication of photoactive un-doped and carbon-doped TiO2 coatings
    The photoactivity of both un-doped and carbon-doped titanium dioxide (TiO2) coatings has been widely reported. In this paper, the use of a microwave plasma as a novel oxidation treatment for the fabrication of these coatings is evaluated. The photoactivity performance of the microwave plasma-formed coatings is benchmarked against those fabricated through air furnace oxidation as well as those deposited using reactive magnetron sputtering. The un-doped and carbon-doped TiO2 coatings were prepared respectively by microwave plasma-oxidizing titanium metal sheets and sputter deposited titanium carbide thin films. The resulting oxides were characterized using XPS, XRD, FEG-SEM, and optical profilometry. The oxide layer thicknesses achieved over the 15 to 45 minute oxidation times were in the range of 0.15 to 3.44 µm. These coatings were considerably thicker than those obtained by air furnace oxidation. The microwave plasma-formed oxides also exhibited significantly higher surface roughness values compared with the magnetron-sputtered coatings. The photoactivity performance of both un-doped and carbon-doped coatings was assessed using photocurrent density measurements. Comparing the un-doped TiO2 coatings, it was observed that those obtained using the microwave plasma oxidation route yielded photocurrent density measurements that were 4.3 times higher than the TiO2 coatings of the same thickness that were deposited by sputtering. The microwave plasma-oxidized titanium carbide coatings did not perform as well as the un-doped TiO2 probably due to the presence of un-oxidized carbide in the coatings, which reduced their photoactivity.
      1419Scopus© Citations 33
  • Publication
    Application of a novel microwave plasma treatment for the sintering of nickel oxide coatings for use in dye-sensitized solar cells
    In this study the use of microwave plasma sintering of nickel oxide (NiOx) particles for use as p-type photoelectrode coatings in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) is investigated. NiOx was chosen as the photocathode for this application due to its stability, wide band gap and p-type nature. For high light conversion efficiency DSSCs require a mesoporous structure exhibiting a high surface area. This can be achieved by sintering particles of NiOx onto a conductive substrate. In this study the use of both 2.45 GHz microwave plasma and conventional furnace sintering were compared for the sintering of the NiOx particles. Coatings 1 to 2.5 μm thick were obtained from the sintered particles (mean particle size of 50 nm) on 3 mm thick fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO) coated glass substrates. Both the furnace and microwave plasma sintering treatments were carried out at ~ 450 °C over a 5 minute period. Dye sensitization was carried out using Erythrosin B and the UV-vis absorption spectra of the NiOx coatings were compared. A 44% increase in the level of dye adsorption was obtained for the microwave plasma sintered samples as compared to that obtained through furnace treatments. While the photovoltaic performance of the DSSC fabricated using the microwave plasma treated NiOx coatings exhibited a tenfold increase in the conversion efficiency in comparison to the furnace treated samples. This enhanced performance was associated with the difference in the mesoporous structure of the sintered NiOx coatings.
      2416Scopus© Citations 44
  • Publication
    Electrochemical characterization of NiO electrodes deposited via a scalable powder microblasting technique
    In this contribution a novel powder coating processing technique (microblasting) for the fabrication of nickel oxide (NiOx) coatings is reported. ~1.2 μm thick NiOx coatings are deposited at 20 mm2 s−1 by the bombardment of the NiOx powder onto a Ni sheet using an air jet at a speed of more than 180 m s−1. Microblast deposited NiOx coatings can be prepared at a high processing rate, do not need further thermal treatment. Therefore, this scalable method is time and energy efficient. The mechano-chemical bonding between the powder particles and substrate results in the formation of strongly adherent NiOx coatings. Microstructural analyses were carried out using SEM, the chemical composition and coatings orientation were determined by XPS and XRD, respectively. The electroactivity of the microblast deposited NiOx coatings was compared with that of NiOx coatings obtained by sintering NiOx nanoparticles previously sprayed onto Ni sheets. In the absence of a redox mediator in the electrolyte, the reduction current of microblast deposited NiOx coatings, when analyzed in anhydrous environment, was two times larger than that produced by higher porosity NiOx nanoparticles coatings of the same thickness obtained through spray coating followed by sintering. Under analogous experimental conditions thin layers of NiOx obtained by using the sol–gel method, ultrasonic spray- and electro-deposition show generally lower current density with respect to microblast samples of the same thickness. The electrochemical reduction of NiOx coatings is controlled by the bulk characteristics of the oxide and the relatively ordered structure of microblast NiOx coatings with respect to sintered NiOx nanoparticles here considered, is expected to increase the electron mobility and ionic charge diffusion lengths in the microblast samples. Finally, the increased level of adhesion of the microblast film on the metallic substrate affords a good electrical contact at the metal/metal oxide interface, and constitutes another reason in support of the choice of microblast as low-cost and scalable deposition method for oxide layers to be employed in electrochemical applications.
      670Scopus© Citations 29
  • Publication
    Achieving enhanced DSSC performance by microwave plasma incorporation of carbon into TiO2 photoelectrodes
    The photoactivity of carbon-incorporated titanium dioxide (TiO2) has been widely reported. This study involves a novel approach to the incorporation of carbon into TiO2 through the use of microwave plasma processing. The process involved thermally treating printed TiO2 nanoparticle coatings in a microwave-induced argon-oxygen plasma containing low concentrations of methane. The resulting deposited carbon layer was characterized using XRD, XPS, Raman, UV–vis, ellipsometry, and optical profilometry. It was found that the methane gas was dissociated in the microwave plasma into its carbon species, which were then deposited as a nm-thick layer onto the TiO2 coatings, most likely in the form of graphite. The photovoltaic performances of both the TiO2 and the carbon-incorporated TiO2 were assessed through J-V and IPCE measurements of the N719-sensitized solar cells using the titania as their photoanodes. Up to a 72% improvement in the maximum power density (Pd-max) was observed for the carbon-incorporated TiO2 samples as compared to the TiO2, onto which no carbon was added. This improvement was found to be mainly associated with an increase in the short-circuit current density (Jsc), but independent from the open-circuit voltage (Voc), the filter factor (FF), and the level of dye adsorption. Possible contributory factors to the improved performance of the carbon-incorporated TiO2 were the enhanced electron conductivity and electron lifetime, both of which were elucidated through electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). When the surface layer was examined using XPS, the optimal carbon content on the TiO2 coating surface was found to be 8.4%, beyond which there was a reduction in the DSSC efficiency.
      603Scopus© Citations 16
  • Publication
    Deposition and characterization of NiOx coatings by magnetron sputtering for application in dye-sensitized solar cells
    Nickel oxide (NiOx) due to its p-type nature has considerable potential as a photocathodic material in energy conversion devices such as dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). However,NiOx has not been extensively used for this application mainly because of low light harvesting efficiency due to limited dye loading on the coatings. In this study NiOx coatings were deposited using the dc- magnetron sputtering technique from a nickel target in an argon/oxygen plasma. One of the advantages of magnetron sputtering is the ability to control coating properties such as mechanical performance and chemical stoichiometry. It is anticipated that by enhancing the interconnectivity between NiOx particles and by optimizing surface roughness, it may be possible to enhance dye adsorption and increase its ability to absorb visible light. NiOx coatings were deposited onto both silicon wafer and indium tin oxide (ITO) covered glass substrates. The influence of deposition parameters such as pressure, nickel target current and substrate bias voltage were correlated with the coating properties of surface roughness, thickness, crystallographic structure and surface energy. This evaluation was carried out using optical profilometry, spectroscopic ellipsometry, XRD and contact angle measurements respectively. It was observed that deposited coating morphology and roughness were significantly influenced by the deposition parameters. For example increasing the deposition pressure from 0.20 to 0.40 Pa led to an increase in surface roughness (Ra) from 1.6 to 3 nm. Associated with this increase in roughness the surface energy increased from 36 to 61 mN/mm. The NiOx coatings were spectrally sensitized with Rucomplex dye containing -COOH groups as anchoring moieties. The dye adsorptions on NiOx coatings, deposited on ITO substrates, were investigated in transmission mode using UV-vis spectroscopy in the range of 400 – 800 nm. It was observed that for the coatings with the highest surface energy, there was an increase of up to 60 % in the level of dye adsorption. The electroactivity of the NiOx thin films deposited on Ni substrate at 0.4 Pa has been verified through the occurrence of redox processes of reduction and lithium intercalation within the oxide film.
      7258Scopus© Citations 58
  • Publication
    Conversion of amorphous TiO2 coatings into their crystalline form using a novel microwave plasma treatment
    Crystalline titanium dioxide (TiO2) coatings have been widely used in photo-electrochemical solar cell applications. In this study, TiO2 and carbon-doped TiO2 coatings were deposited onto unheated titanium and silicon wafer substrates using a DC closed-field magnetron sputtering system. The resultant coatings had an amorphous structure and a post-deposition heat treatment is required to convert this amorphous structure into the photoactive crystalline phase(s) of TiO2. This study investigates the use of a microwave plasma heat treatment as a means of achieving this crystalline conversion. The treatment involved placing the sputtered coatings into a 2.45 GHz microwave-induced nitrogen plasma where they were heated to approximately 550°C. It was observed that for treatment times as short as 1 minute, the 0.25-µm thick coatings were converted into the anatase crystalline phase of TiO2. The coatings were further transformed into the rutile crystalline phase after treatments at higher temperatures. The doping of TiO2 with carbon was found to result in a reduction in this phase transformation temperature, with higher level of doping (up to 5.8% in this study) leading to lower anatase-to-rutile transition temperature. The photoactivity performance of both doped and un-doped coatings heat-treated using both furnace and microwave plasma was compared. The carbon-doped TiO2 exhibited a 29% increase in photocurrent density compared to that observed for the un-doped coating. Comparing carbon-doped coatings heat-treated using the furnace and microwave plasma, it was observed that the latter yielded a 19% increase in photocurrent density. This enhanced performance may be correlated to the differences in the coatings’ surface morphology and band gap energy, both of which influence the coatings’ photoabsorption efficiency.
      2452Scopus© Citations 8