Using a simple hydrothermal synthesis, the crystal structure of TiO2 nanoparticles was controlled from rutile to anatase using a sugar alcohol, D-sorbitol. Adding small amounts of D-sorbitol to an aqueous TiCl4 solution resulted in changes in the crystal phase, particle size, and surface area by affecting the hydrolysis rate of TiCl4. These changes led to improvements of the solar-to-electrical power conversion efficiency (η) of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC) fabricated using these nanoparticles. A postulated reaction mechanism concerning the role of D-sorbitol in the formation of rutile and anatase was proposed. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, 13C NMR spectroscopy, and dynamic light scattering analyses were used to better understand the interaction between the Ti precursor and D-sorbitol. The crystal phase and size of the synthesized TiO2 nanocrystallites as well as photovoltaic performance of the DSSC were examined using X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, field-emission scanning electron microscopy, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, and photocurrent density-applied voltage spectroscopy measurement techniques. The DSSC fabricated using the anatase TiO2 nanoparticles synthesized in the presence of D-sorbitol, exhibited an enhanced η (6%, 1.5-fold improvement) compared with the device fabricated using the rutile TiO2 synthesized without D-sorbitol.
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