Exploring the impact of structural rigidification of amino-substituted bio-inspired flavylium dyes in DSSCs

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Sharing with anthocyanins the 2-phenyl-1-benzopyrylium structural motif, flavylium derivatives are strongly colored bio-inspired dyes that have been explored in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). Following on the fact that the most efficient flavylium-based dyes for DSSCs require amine electron-donating groups, a diethylamino group and the corresponding rigidified julolidine group were introduced in the benzopyrylium core. This structural variation was combined with another structural parameter – increased planarization of the flavylium ring system – to yield four flavylium derivatives all with a catechol anchoring group. The several pKa values of the new dyes and the UV–vis absorption data at different pH values and upon adsorption to TiO2 (corroborated by TD-DFT calculations) demonstrate a stronger delocalization of the nitrogen lone pair in the julolidine systems when compared to the diethylamino ones, reflecting the stronger electron-donating ability of the former. However, the julolidine-based dyes resulted in a decrease in all DSSC parameters, with efficiencies of 0.6% vs. 2.3% for the diethylamino devices. Discarding eventual increased self-aggregation processes of the more planar julolidine derivatives through studies with a de-aggregating agent (CDCA), and determining comparable dye loadings for all dyes, the presence of increased back-electron transfer processes for the julolidine-based compounds is advanced to explain their lower efficiencies. Rigidification of the flavylium dyes by bridging the benzopyrylium and the phenyl rings is demonstrated by higher fluorescence quantum yields and by electrochemical data and leads to a slight increase in the efficiency of the respective DSSCs. The results contribute to consolidate the potential of flavylium dyes as sensitizers for DSSCs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111495
Number of pages12
JournalDyes and Pigments
Early online date3 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Bio-inspired dyes
  • Dye-sensitized solar cells
  • Flavylium salts
  • Titanium dioxide


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