The CoSe2@NGN nanocomposite was prepared using reduction and post calcination method as shown in figure-1.
The FTIR spectra of the nanocomposites illustrate in figure 2(a) and the peaks at 1567 cm−1 and 1647 cm−1 assigned to the C=C and C=N bonds. Other peaks at 1334, 1402, and 1054 cm−1 peak are assigned to the C-O, C–N, and C–O–C stretching, respectively (Ahamad et al., 2020a; Ahamad et al., 2019). While the peaks in the region of 3170-3382 cm−1 are corresponding to N−H, -NH2, and O−H bonds, respectively and the FTIR peak at 587 cm−1 support the bond Co-Se. The thermal stability of the nanocomposites was determine using TGA analysis and the results were illustrated in the figure 2(b). The TGA outcomes revealed that as the amount of the NGN was increased from 5–20% the thermal stability of the nanocomposites was decreased and the reduced weight was found to be 49.02%, 41.64%, 38.43% and 34.88% corresponding to CoSe2@NGN-5, CoSe2@NGN-10, CoSe2@NGN-15 and CoSe2@NGN-20 respectively at 800 oC (Ahamad and Alshehri, 2013; Naushad et al., 2015). The purity and the crystalline nature of the nanocomposites were also determine using XRD, as shown in figure 2(c), The diffraction peaks at 2θ = 30.78, 34.52, 35.96, 40.38, 47.72, 50.23, 53.48, 56.95 and 63.29 can be assigned to the (101), (111), (120), (210), (211), (002), (031), (131) and (122) planes are assigned to the orthorhombic CoSe2 (PDF-53–0449). The doping of the nitrogen atoms into to the graphene and growing the CoSe2 nanoparticles into the NGN matrix was further determine using Raman spectra. As shown in figure 2(d), two main Raman peaks were observed at 1354 cm−1 and 1592 cm−1 known as D and G bands, respectively. The G band assigned to the sp2 hybridized C=C bonds, whereas the D band assigned to the sp3 hybridized C-C bond (Ahamad et al., 2020c; Ahamad et al., 2020d; Alhokbany et al., 2020). The intensity of these two peaks increased with increasing the contents of NGN in to the nanocomposites. Other peaks at 163.46, 469.23 and 670.21 cm−1 assigned to the CoSe2 nanoparticles. The defect density of carbon is proportional to the value of ID/IG and found to be 1.24 in the case of CoSe2@NGN-15.
The results indicated that the doping of N atoms and the existence of sp3 C-C and C-N bonds enhanced the disordered of graphene lattice. Which lead the electron transfer and catalytic efficiency for I3− reduction in DSSC. The microstructure and the morphology of the fabricated electrode materials were determine using SEM and TEM techniques. As shown in figure 3(a), the SEM image of the CoSe2@NGN-15 nanocomposite show the porous structure and grown the nanoparticles in the NGN matrix. The enlarged pattern of the SEM image is shown in figure 3(b) and the results revealed that revealed that the spherical shaped CoSe2 nanoparticles with the dimeter range of 20-50 nm are well dispersed into the NGN matrix. These results support that the fabricated electrode material contains hetrostructure which being conducive to the exposure the active sites at the surface of the catalyst to reduce the I3−. To deep understand the microstructural of CoSe2@NGN-15, TEM analysis was used. As shown in figure 3(c), CoSe2 nanoparticles with an average size of ∼38.9 nm are uniformly embedded in the NGN matrix.
The HRTEM image as shown in figure 3(d), displayed inter-planar spacing of 0.29 nm, and 0.19 nm in the high-resolution TEM (HRETM) images are indexed to the (101), and (211) oriented facets of CoSe2 nanoparticles. The inserted figure od selected area electron diffraction show the polycrystalline nature of the CoSe2 nanoparticles. To porosity of the nanocomposites were further characterized using the nitrogen adsorption-desorption isotherm and the curves were illustrated in figure 4(a).
It was noticed that all the nanocomposites show type-IV hysteresis loops and demonstrating the mesoporous structure (Alshehri et al., 2017; Alshehri et al., 2016; Vinu et al., 2018). In the case of the CoSe2@NGN-15, the hysteresis loops were observed from 0.40 to 0.99 and the specific surface area was found to be 421.0 m2/g, while for CoSe2@NGN-5, CoSe2@NGN-10, CoSe2@NGN-20 the surface area was found to be 440.2, 436.4 and 414.12 m2/g respectively. These results demonstrate that the surface area of the nanocomposites were increased with increasing the contents of NGN into the electrode materials. Figure 4(b) show the pore size dimeter was observed about in the range of 20-67 nm in the case of all the nanocomposites. The large surface area and nanoscale pore size of the CoSe2@NGN based electrode materials not only support the additional catalytic sites but also enhance the electron transfer during the I3− reduction. The elemental composition and the valance state of the elements present in the nanocomposite as monitored by XPS analysis, as shown in figure 5(a), the XPS spectra of CoSe2@NGN-15 show the presence of C, N, Co, Se and O into the nanocomposite. As shown in figure 5(b), the C 1s peak was deconvoluted into four peaks and cantered at at 284.68, 285.71, 286.90 and 287.78 eV and assigned to the C-C, C-N, C=N, and O=C-O function groups presence into the NGN matrix.
The N1s spectra of the nanocomposites was split into three peaks and show the binding energy at into 398.24, 400.36, and 401.43 eV, corresponding to pyridinic, pyrrolic/pyridonic, and graphitic nitrogen functional groups respectively as shown in figure 5(c) (Ahamad et al., 2020b; Khalaf et al., 2020). The XPS peak of Co 2p was deconvoluted into four characteristic peaks as shown in figure 5(d), two of them are the main peaks and the binding energy cantered at 778.71 and 793.89 eV corresponding to the Co 2p3/2 and Co 2p1/2, respectively, and other two peaks were observed at binding energy 780.23 and 796.91 eV are assigned to the satellite peaks of Co 2p3/2 and Co2 p1/2 respectively. Figure 5(e), shows the XPS spectrum of Se 3d and the main peak was split into two peaks and cantered at 54.74 and 55.83 eV and assigned to Se 3d3/2 and Se 3d5/2 respectively (Liu et al., 2016). The XPS results shows that the O atoms also present into the matrix and the O 1 s spectrum was deconvoluted into binding energies of 530.44, and 531.88 eV and assigned to the presence of C-O and Se-O bonds respectively.