Nanocellulose aerogel membranes for optimal electrolyte filling in dye solar cells

Kati Miettunen (Corresponding Author), Jaana Vapaavuori, Armi Tiihonen, Aapo Poskela, Panu Lahtinen, Janne Halme, Peter Lund

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    52 Citations (Scopus)


    A new method for depositing electrolyte in dye solar cells (DSCs) is introduced: a nanocellulose hydrogel membrane is screen printed on the counter electrode and further freeze-dried to form a highly porous nanocellulose aerogel, which acts as an absorbing sponge for the liquid electrolyte. When the nanoporous dye-sensitized TiO2 photoelectrode film is pressed against the wetted aerogel, it becomes filled with the electrolyte. The electrolyte flows inside the TiO2 film only about ten micrometers (i.e. the TiO2 film thickness) whereas in the conventional filling method, where the electrolyte is pumped through the cell, it flows about 1000-times longer distance, which is known to cause uneven distribution of the electrolyte components due to a molecular filtering effect. Furthermore, with the new method there is no need for electrolyte filling holes which simplifies significantly the sealing of the cells and eliminates one common pathway for leakage. Photovoltaic analysis showed that addition of the nanocellulose aerogel membrane did not have a statistically significant effect on cell efficiency, diffusion in the electrolyte or charge transfer at the counter electrode. There was, however, a clear difference in the short circuit current density and open circuit voltage between the cells filled with the aerogel method and in the reference cells filled with the conventional method, which appeared to be caused by the differences in the electrolyte filling instead of the nanocellulose itself. Moreover, accelerated aging tests at 1 Sun 40°C for 1000h showed that the nanocellulose cells were as stable as the conventional DSCs. The nanocellulose aerogel membranes thus appear inert with respect to both performance and stability of the cells, which is an important criterion for any electrolyte solidifying filler material.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)95-102
    JournalNano Energy
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • nanocellulose
    • semi-solid electrolytes
    • gel electrolytes
    • dye-sensitized solar cells
    • spatial distribution


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