In this work, dysprosium ion decorated yttrium oxide (Dy(3+):Y2O3) nanocrystal phosphors were incorporated into TiO2 acceptor thin film in a bid to enhance the light harvest, charge separation and transfer in the hybrid solar cells. The results show that the energy level offset between the donor (P3HT) and the acceptor (Dy(3+):Y2O3-TiO2) has been narrowed down, thus leading to the enhanced electron and hole transports, and also photovoltaic performances as compared to pure TiO2 without incorporating Dy(3+):Y2O3. By applying femtosecond transient optical spectroscopy, after the incorporation of dopant Dy(3+):Y2O3 into TiO2 at 6 wt%, both the hot electron and hole transfer lifetimes have been shortened, that is, from 30.2 ps and 6.94 ns to 25.1 ps and 1.26 ns, respectively, and an enhanced efficiency approaching 3% was achieved as compared to 2.0% without doping, indicating that the energetic charges are captured more efficiently benefitting a higher power conversion efficiency. Moreover, these results reveal that both the conduction band (CB) and valence band (VB) edges of the acceptor were elevated by 0.57 and 0.32 eV, respectively, after incorporating 6 wt% Dy(3+):Y2O3. This work demonstrates that distinct energy level alignment engineered by Dy(3+):Y2O3 phosphor has an important role in pursuing efficient future solar cells and underscores the promising potential of rare-earth phosphor in solar applications.
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