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Nanomaterials 2019, 9(3), 357; https://doi.org/10.3390/nano9030357

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
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Received: 30 January 2019 / Revised: 18 February 2019 / Accepted: 20 February 2019 / Published: 4 March 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Computational Materials Design for Renewable Energy Applications)
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Abstract

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. View Full-Text
Keywords: TiO2 clusters; electronic structure; density of states; organic dyes; dye-sensitized solar cells; penicillin; photocatalytic degradation; density functional theory TiO2 clusters; electronic structure; density of states; organic dyes; dye-sensitized solar cells; penicillin; photocatalytic degradation; density functional theory
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Oprea, C.I.; Gîrțu, M.A. Structure and Electronic Properties of TiO2 Nanoclusters and Dye–Nanocluster Systems Appropriate to Model Hybrid Photovoltaic or Photocatalytic Applications. Nanomaterials 2019, 9, 357.

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