Quantum dot-metal oxide junctions are an integral part of next-generation solar cells, light emitting diodes, and nanostructured electronic arrays. Here we present a comprehensive examination of electron transfer at these junctions, using a series of CdSe quantum dot donors (sizes 2.8, 3.3, 4.0, and 4.2 nm in diameter) and metal oxide nanoparticle acceptors (SnO(2), TiO(2), and ZnO). Apparent electron transfer rate constants showed strong dependence on change in system free energy, exhibiting a sharp rise at small driving forces followed by a modest rise further away from the characteristic reorganization energy. The observed trend mimics the predicted behavior of electron transfer from a single quantum state to a continuum of electron accepting states, such as those present in the conduction band of a metal oxide nanoparticle. In contrast with dye-sensitized metal oxide electron transfer studies, our systems did not exhibit unthermalized hot-electron injection due to relatively large ratios of electron cooling rate to electron transfer rate. To investigate the implications of these findings in photovoltaic cells, quantum dot-metal oxide working electrodes were constructed in an identical fashion to the films used for the electron transfer portion of the study. Interestingly, the films which exhibited the fastest electron transfer rates (SnO(2)) were not the same as those which showed the highest photocurrent (TiO(2)). These findings suggest that, in addition to electron transfer at the quantum dot-metal oxide interface, other electron transfer reactions play key roles in the determination of overall device efficiency.
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