Structure and Electronic Properties of TiO₂ Nanoclusters and Dye⁻Nanocluster Systems Appropriate to Model Hybrid Photovoltaic or Photocatalytic Applications.


Department of Physics and Electronics, Ovidius University of Constanța, 900527 Constanța, Romania. [Email]


We report the results of a computational study of TiO₂ nanoclusters of various sizes as well as of complex systems with various molecules adsorbed onto the clusters to set the ground for the modeling of charge transfer processes in hybrid organic⁻inorganic photovoltaics or photocatalytic degradation of pollutants. Despite the large number of existing computational studies of TiO₂ clusters and in spite of the higher computing power of the typical available hardware, allowing for calculations of larger systems, there are still studies that use cluster sizes that are too small and not appropriate to address particular problems or certain complex systems relevant in photovoltaic or photocatalytic applications. By means of density functional theory (DFT) calculations, we attempt to find acceptable minimal sizes of the TinO2n+2H₄ (n = 14, 24, 34, 44, 54) nanoclusters in correlation with the size of the adsorbed molecule and the rigidity of the backbone of the molecule to model systems and interface processes that occur in hybrid photovoltaics and photocatalysis. We illustrate various adsorption cases with a small rigid molecule based on coumarin, a larger rigid oligomethine cyanine dye with indol groups, and the penicillin V antibiotic having a flexible backbone. We find that the use of the n = 14 cluster to describe adsorption leads to significant distortions of both the cluster and the molecule and to unusual tridentate binding configurations not seen for larger clusters. Moreover, the significantly weaker bonding as well as the differences in the density of states and in the optical spectra suggest that the n = 14 cluster is a poor choice for simulating the materials used in the practical applications envisaged here. As the n = 24 cluster has provided mixed results, we argue that cluster sizes larger than or equal to n = 34 are necessary to provide the reliability required by photovoltaic and photocatalytic applications. Furthermore, the tendency to saturate the key quantities of interest when moving from n = 44 to n = 54 suggests that the largest cluster may bring little improvement at a significantly higher computational cost.


TiO2 clusters,density functional theory,density of states,dye-sensitized solar cells,electronic structure,organic dyes,penicillin,photocatalytic degradation,