Empirical in operando analysis of the charge carrier dynamics in hematite photoanodes by PEIS, IMPS and IMVS.
ABSTRACT: In this Perspective, we introduce intensity modulated photocurrent/voltage spectroscopy (IMPS and IMVS) as powerful tools for the analysis of charge carrier dynamics in photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells for solar water splitting, taking hematite (?-Fe2O3) photoanodes as a case study. We complete the picture by including photoelectrochemical impedance spectroscopy (PEIS) and linking the trio of PEIS, IMPS and IMVS, introduced here as photoelectrochemical immittance triplets (PIT), both mathematically and phenomenologically, demonstrating what conclusions can be extracted from these measurements. A novel way of analyzing the results by an empirical approach with minimal presumptions is introduced, using the distribution of relaxation times (DRT) function. The DRT approach is compared to conventional analysis approaches that are based on physical models and therefore come with model presumptions. This work uses a thin film hematite photoanode as a model system, but the approach can be applied to other PEC systems as well.
Project description:Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting holds the potential to meet the challenges associated with the intermittent nature of sunlight. Catalysts have often been shown to improve the performance of PEC water splitting, but their working mechanisms are not well understood. Using intensity modulated photocurrent spectroscopy (IMPS), we determined the rate constants of water oxidation and recombination at the surface of three different hematite-based photoanodes. It was found that the best performing electrodes, in terms of photocurrent onset potential, exhibited the slowest water oxidation rate constants, which was a surprise. The performance of these photoelectrodes was enabled by the slow surface recombination. When amorphous NiFeO x , a water oxidation catalyst, was present, the rate of surface hole transfer actually slowed down; what was slowed more was the recombination rate at the hematite surface, resulting in better water oxidation performance. As such, NiFeO x primarily serves as a passivation layer rather than a catalytic layer. Together a better understanding of the role of catalytic overlayers for water oxidation has been achieved.
Project description:Hematite is a promising and extensively investigated material for various photoelectrochemical (PEC) processes for energy conversion and storage, in particular for oxidation reactions. Thermal treatments during synthesis of hematite are found to affect the performance of hematite electrodes considerably. Herein, we present hematite thin films fabricated via one-step oxidation of Fe by rapid thermal processing (RTP). In particular, we investigate the effect of oxidation temperature on the PEC properties of hematite. Films prepared at 750?°C show the highest activity towards water oxidation. These films show the largest average grain size and the highest charge carrier density, as determined from electron microscopy and impedance spectroscopy analysis. We believe that the fast processing enabled by RTP makes this technique a preferred method for investigation of novel materials and architectures, potentially also on nanostructured electrodes, where retaining high surface area is crucial to maximize performance.
Project description:Hematite (?-Fe2O3) is one of the most promising candidates as a photoanode materials for solar water splitting. Owing to the difficulty in suppressing the significant charge recombination, however, the photoelectrochemical (PEC) conversion efficiency of hematite is still far below the theoretical limit. Here we report thick hematite films (?1500?nm) constructed by highly ordered and intimately attached hematite mesocrystals (MCs) for highly efficient PEC water oxidation. Due to the formation of abundant interfacial oxygen vacancies yielding a high carrier density of ?1020?cm-3 and the resulting extremely large proportion of depletion regions with short depletion widths (<10?nm) in hierarchical structures, charge separation and collection efficiencies could be markedly improved. Moreover, it was found that long-lived charges are generated via excitation by shorter wavelength light (below ?500?nm), thus enabling long-range hole transfer through the MC network to drive high efficiency of light-to-energy conversion under back illumination.
Project description:The poor photoelectrochemical (PEC) performance derived from insufficient charge separation in hematite photoanode crucially limits its application. Gradient doping with band bending in a large region is then considered as a promising strategy, facilitating the charge transfer ability due to the built-in electric field. Herein, we developed a synthetic strategy to prepare gradient Ti-doped ultrathin hematite photoelectrode and systematically investigated its PEC performance. The as-synthesized electrode (1.5-6.0% doping level from the surface to the substrate) delivered a photocurrent of about 1.30?mA?cm-2 at 1.23?V versus the reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE), which is nearly 100% higher than that of homogeneously doped hematite electrode. The enhanced charge transfer property, induced by the energy band bending due to the built-in electric field, has been further confirmed by electrochemical measurements. This strategy of gradient doping should be adaptable and can be applied for other functional materials in various fields.
Project description:Utilizing photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells to directly collecting solar energy into chemical fuels (e.g., H<sub>2</sub> via water splitting) is a promising way to tackle the energy challenge. ?-Fe<sub>2</sub>O<sub>3</sub> has emerged as a desirable photoanode material in a PEC cell due to its wide spectrum absorption range, chemical stability, and earth abundant component. However, the short excited state lifetime, poor minority charge carrier mobility, and long light penetration depth hamper its application. Recently, the elegantly designed hierarchical macroporous composite nanomaterial has emerged as a strong candidate for photoelectrical applications. Here, a novel 3D antimony-doped SnO<sub>2</sub> (ATO) macroporous structure is demonstrated as a transparent conducting scaffold to load 1D hematite nanorod to form a composite material for efficient PEC water splitting. An enormous enhancement in PEC performance is found in the 3D electrode compared to the controlled planar one, due to the outstanding light harvesting and charge transport. A facile and simple TiCl<sub>4</sub> treatment further introduces the Ti doping into the hematite while simultaneously forming a passivation layer to eliminate adverse reactions. The results indicate that the structural design and nanoengineering are an effective strategy to boost the PEC performance in order to bring more potential devices into practical use.
Project description:The sun is the primary energy source of our planet and potentially can supply all societies with more than just their basic energy needs. Demand of electric energy can be satisfied with photovoltaics, however the global demand for fuels is even higher. The direct way to produce the solar fuel hydrogen is by water splitting in photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells, an artificial mimic of photosynthesis. There is currently strong resurging interest for solar fuels produced by PEC cells, but some fundamental technological problems need to be solved to make PEC water splitting an economic, competitive alternative. One of the problems is to provide a low cost, high performing water oxidizing and oxygen evolving photoanode in an environmentally benign setting. Hematite, ?-Fe2O3, satisfies many requirements for a good PEC photoanode, but its efficiency is insufficient in its pristine form. A promising strategy for enhancing photocurrent density takes advantage of photosynthetic proteins. In this paper we give an overview of how electrode surfaces in general and hematite photoanodes in particular can be functionalized with light harvesting proteins. Specifically, we demonstrate how low-cost biomaterials such as cyanobacterial phycocyanin and enzymatically produced melanin increase the overall performance of virtually no-cost metal oxide photoanodes in a PEC system. The implementation of biomaterials changes the overall nature of the photoanode assembly in a way that aggressive alkaline electrolytes such as concentrated KOH are not required anymore. Rather, a more environmentally benign and pH neutral electrolyte can be used.
Project description:The kinetics of photoelectrochemical (PEC) oxidation of methanol, as a model organic substrate, on ?-Fe2O3 photoanodes are studied using photoinduced absorption spectroscopy and transient photocurrent measurements. Methanol is oxidized on ?-Fe2O3 to formaldehyde with near unity Faradaic efficiency. A rate law analysis under quasi-steady-state conditions of PEC methanol oxidation indicates that rate of reaction is second order in the density of surface holes on hematite and independent of the applied potential. Analogous data on anatase TiO2 photoanodes indicate similar second-order kinetics for methanol oxidation with a second-order rate constant 2 orders of magnitude higher than that on ?-Fe2O3. Kinetic isotope effect studies determine that the rate constant for methanol oxidation on ?-Fe2O3 is retarded ?20-fold by H/D substitution. Employing these data, we propose a mechanism for methanol oxidation under 1 sun irradiation on these metal oxide surfaces and discuss the implications for the efficient PEC methanol oxidation to formaldehyde and concomitant hydrogen evolution.
Project description:Hematite has a great potential as a photoanode for photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting by converting solar energy into hydrogen fuels, but the solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of state-of-the-art hematite photoelectrodes are still far below the values required for practical hydrogen production. Here, we report a core-shell formation of gradient tantalum-doped hematite homojunction nanorods by combination of hydrothermal regrowth strategy and hybrid microwave annealing, which enhances the photocurrent density and reduces the turn-on voltage simultaneously. The unusual bi-functional effects originate from the passivation of the surface states and intrinsic built-in electric field by the homojunction formation. The additional driving force provided by the field can effectively suppress charge-carrier recombination both in the bulk and on the surface of hematite, especially at lower potentials. Moreover, the synthesized homojunction shows a remarkable synergy with NiFe(OH)<sub>x</sub> cocatalyst with significant additional improvements of photocurrent density and cathodic shift of turn-on voltage. The work has nicely demonstrated multiple collaborative strategies of gradient doping, homojunction formation, and cocatalyst modification, and the concept could shed light on designing and constructing the efficient nanostructures of semiconductor photoelectrodes in the field of solar energy conversion.
Project description:In this study, Bi2S3 sensitive layer has been grown on the surface of WO3 nanoplate arrays via an in situ approach. The characterization of samples were carried out using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and ultraviolet-visible absorption spectroscopy (UV-vis). The results show that the Bi2S3 layer is uniformly formed on the surface of WO3 nanoplates and less interfacial defects were observed in the interface between the Bi2S3 and WO3. More importantly, the Bi2S3/WO3 films as photoanodes for photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells display the enhanced PEC performance compared with the Bi2S3/WO3 films prepared by a sequential ionic layer adsorption reaction (SILAR) method. In order to understand the reason for the enhanced PEC properties, the electron transport properties of the photoelectrodes were studied by using the transient photocurrent spectroscopy and intensity modulated photocurrent spectroscopy (IMPS). The Bi2S3/WO3 films prepared via an in situ approach have a greater transient time constant and higher electron transit rate. This is most likely due to less interfacial defects for the Bi2S3/WO3 films prepared via an in situ approach, resulting in a lower resistance and faster carrier transport in the interface between WO3 and Bi2S3.
Project description:Uniform rectangular ?-Fe2O3 nanorods (R-Fe2O3) and irregular ?-Fe2O3 nanorods (D-Fe2O3) with a random size vertically aligned on fluorine-doped tin oxide were prepared with a facile one-step hydrothermal procedure. X-ray diffraction (XRD) measurements and Raman spectra confirm that the obtained samples are ?-Fe2O3, and XRD patterns show that D-Fe2O3 has two extra (012) and (104) planes of hematite in addition to the identical peaks to R-Fe2O3. The carrier density of the D-Fe2O3 sample is four times larger than that of R-Fe2O3. Finally, the D-Fe2O3 photoelectrode exhibited a better photoelectrochemical (PEC) performance under visible illumination than that of R-Fe2O3, achieving the photocurrent density of 0.15 mA cm-2 at 1.23 V versus reversible hydrogen electrode. In addition, incident photo-to-current conversion efficiency of D-Fe2O3 is nearly three times larger than that of R-Fe2O3. Hence, the improved PEC performance of D-Fe2O3 can be ascribed to higher carrier density resulting from the amount of oxygen vacancies and more activated exposed surface facets.