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The dye distribution within a photo-electrode is a key parameter in determining the performances of dye-sensitized photon-to-electron conversion devices, such as dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). A traditional, depth profiling investigation by destructive means including cross-sectional sampling is unsuitable for large quality control applications in manufacturing processes. Therefore, a non-destructive monitoring of the dye depth profile is required, which is the first step toward a non-destructive evaluation of the internal degradation of the device in the field. Here, we present a conceptual demonstration of the ability to monitor the dye depth profile within the light active layer of DSSCs by non-destructive means with high chemical specificity using a recently developed non-destructive/non-invasive Raman method, micro-spatially offset Raman spectroscopy (micro-SORS). Micro-SORS is able to probe through turbid materials, providing the molecular identification of compounds located under the surface, without the need of resorting to a cross-sectional analysis. The study was performed on the photo-electrode of DSSCs. This represents the first demonstration of the micro-SORS concept in the solar cell area as well as, more generally, the application of micro-SORS to the thinnest layer to date. A sample set has been prepared with varying concentrations of the dye and the thickness of the matrix consisting of a titanium dioxide layer. The results showed that micro-SORS can unequivocally discriminate between the homogeneous and inhomogeneous dye depth profiles. Moreover, micro-SORS outcomes have been compared with the results obtained with destructive time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry measurements. The results of the two techniques are in good agreement, confirming the reliability of micro-SORS analysis. Therefore, this study is expected to pave the way for establishing a wider and more effective monitoring capability in this important field.

Original publication





Analytical chemistry

Publication Date





2966 - 2972


Institute of Heritage Science (ISPC), National Research Council (CNR), Via Cozzi 53, 20125 Milano, Italy.


Titanium, Cross-Sectional Studies, Reproducibility of Results, Electrodes, Coloring Agents