Indexed on: 19 Aug '15Published on: 19 Aug '15Published in: Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters
TiO2 sensitized with quantum dots (QDs) gives efficient photovoltaic and photocatalytic systems due to high stability and large absorption cross sections of QDs and rapid photoinduced charge separation at the interface. The yields of the light-induced processes are limited by electron-hole recombination that also occurs at the interface. We combine ab initio nonadiabatic molecular dynamics with analytic theory to investigate the experimentally studied charge recombination at the PbSe QD-TiO2 interface. The time-domain atomistic simulation directly mimics the laser experiment and generates important details of the recombination mechanism. The process occurs due to coupling of the electronic subsystem to polar optical modes of the TiO2 surface. The inelastic electron-phonon scattering happens on a picosecond time scale, while the elastic scattering takes 40 fs. Counter to expectations, the donor-acceptor bonding strengthens at an elevated temperature. An analytic theory extends the simulation results to larger QDs and longer QD-TiO2 bridges. It shows that the electron-hole recombination rate decreases significantly for longer bridges and larger dots and that the main effect arises due to reduced donor-acceptor coupling rather than changes in the donor-acceptor energy gap. The study indicates that by varying QD size or ligands one can reduce charge losses while still maintaining efficient charge separation, providing design principles for optimizing solar cell design and increasing photon-to-electron conversion efficiencies.