Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Photoelectrochemical cell


A little dopey: Ta-doped titania (TiO2 ) nanotube (NT) arrays can be grown by electrochemical anodization onto low-Ta-concentration (0.03-0.4 at % Ta) Ti-Ta alloys. Under optimized conditions (0.1 at % Ta, annealing at 650 °C and 7 μm thickness), Ta-doped TiO2 NT arrays show a significantly enhanced activity in photoelectrochemical water splitting under simulated sunlight conditions.

Concepts: Photoelectrochemical cell, Electrolysis


Tuning the photonic band gap (PBG) to the electronic band gap (EBG) of Au/TiO2 catalysts resulted in considerable enhancement of the photocatalytic water splitting to hydrogen under direct sunlight. Au/TiO2 (PBG-357 nm) photocatalyst exhibited superior photocatalytic performance under both UV and sunlight compared to the Au/TiO2 (PBG-585 nm) photocatalyst and both are higher than Au/TiO2 without the 3 dimensionally ordered macro-porous structure materials. The very high photocatalytic activity is attributed to suppression of a fraction of electron-hole recombination route due to the co-incidence of the PBG with the EBG of TiO2 These materials that maintain their activity with very small amount of sacrificial agents (down to 0.5 vol.% of ethanol) are poised to find direct applications because of their high activity, low cost of the process, simplicity and stability.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Hydrogen, Catalysis, Semiconductor, Photoelectrochemical cell, Solar cell, Photocatalysis, Electronic band structure


The solar-powered production of hydrogen for use as a renewable fuel is highly desirable for the world’s future energy infrastructure. However, difficulties in achieving reasonable efficiencies, and thus cost-effectiveness, have hampered significant research progress. Here we propose the use of semiconductor nanostructures to create a type-II heterojunction at the semiconductor-water interface in a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) and theoretically investigate it as a method of increasing the maximum photovoltage such a cell can generate under illumination, with the aim of increasing the overall cell efficiency. A model for the semiconductor electrode in a PEC is created, which solves the Schrödinger, Poisson and drift-diffusion equations self-consistently. From this, it is determined that ZnO quantum dots on bulk n-InGaN with low In content x is the most desirable system, having electron-accepting and -donating states straddling the oxygen- and hydrogen-production potentials for x < 0.26, though large variance in literature values for certain material parameters means large uncertainties in the model output. Accordingly, results presented here should form the basis for further experimental work, which will in turn provide input to refine and develop the model.

Concepts: Hydrogen, Photoelectrochemical cell, Solar cell, Electrode, Electrolysis, Object-oriented programming, Heterojunction, Hydrogen production


The engineering of acetylenic carbon-rich nanostructures has great potential in many applications, such as nanoelectronics, chemical sensors, energy storage, and conversion, etc. Here we show the synthesis of acetylenic carbon-rich nanofibers via copper-surface-mediated Glaser polycondensation of 1,3,5-triethynylbenzene on a variety of conducting (e.g., copper, graphite, fluorine-doped tin oxide, and titanium) and non-conducting (e.g., Kapton, glass, and silicon dioxide) substrates. The obtained nanofibers (with optical bandgap of 2.51 eV) exhibit photocatalytic activity in photoelectrochemical cells, yielding saturated cathodic photocurrent of ca. 10 µA cm-2(0.3-0 V vs. reversible hydrogen electrode). By incorporating thieno[3,2-b]thiophene units into the nanofibers, a redshift (ca. 100 nm) of light absorption edge and twofold of the photocurrent are achieved, rivalling those of state-of-the-art metal-free photocathodes (e.g., graphitic carbon nitride of 0.1-1 µA cm-2). This work highlights the promise of utilizing acetylenic carbon-rich materials as efficient and sustainable photocathodes for water reduction.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen, Carbon, Aluminium, Oxide, Photoelectrochemical cell, Photocatalysis


The data presented in this article are related to the research article entitled “CuO photocathode-embedded semitransparent photoelectrochemical cell” (Patel et al., 2016) [1]. This article describes the growth of Cu oxides films using reactive sputtering and application of CuO photocathode in semitransparent photoelectrochemical cell (PEC). In this data article, physical, optical and electrical properties, and PEC performances data set of the reactively sputtered semitransparent CuO samples are made publicly available to enable extended analyses.

Concepts: Data, Research, Copper, Oxide, Photoelectrochemical cell


The generation of hydrogen from water using sunlight could potentially form the basis of a clean and renewable source of energy. Various water-splitting methods have been investigated previously, but the use of photocatalysts to split water into stoichiometric amounts of H2 and O2 (overall water splitting) without the use of external bias or sacrificial reagents is of particular interest because of its simplicity and potential low cost of operation. However, despite progress in the past decade, semiconductor water-splitting photocatalysts (such as (Ga1-xZnx)(N1-xOx)) do not exhibit good activity beyond 440 nm (refs 1,2,9) and water-splitting devices that can harvest visible light typically have a low solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of around 0.1%. Here we show that cobalt(II) oxide (CoO) nanoparticles can carry out overall water splitting with a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of around 5%. The photocatalysts were synthesized from non-active CoO micropowders using two distinct methods (femtosecond laser ablation and mechanical ball milling), and the CoO nanoparticles that result can decompose pure water under visible-light irradiation without any co-catalysts or sacrificial reagents. Using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, we show that the high photocatalytic activity of the nanoparticles arises from a significant shift in the position of the band edge of the material.

Concepts: Spectroscopy, Energy, Light, Hydrogen, Photoelectrochemical cell, Photocatalysis, Photocatalytic water splitting, Fuel cell


A variety of catalysts have recently been developed for electrocatalytic oxygen evolution, but very few of them can be readily integrated with semiconducting light absorbers for photoelectrochemical or photocatalytic water splitting. Here, we demonstrate an efficient core/shell photoanode with a highly active oxygen evolution electrocatalyst shell (FeMnP) and semiconductor core (rutile TiO2) for photoelectrochemical oxygen evolution reaction. Metal-organic chemical vapor deposition from a single-source precursor was used to ensure good contact between the FeMnP and the TiO2. The TiO2/FeMnP core/shell photoanode reaches the theoretical photocurrent density for rutile TiO2 of 1.8 mA cm(-2) at 1.23 V vs reversible hydrogen electrode under simulated 100 mW cm(-2) (1 sun) irradiation. The dramatic enhancement is a result of the synergistic effects of the high oxygen evolution reaction activity of FeMnP (delivering an overpotential of 300 mV with a Tafel slope of 65 mV dec(-1) in 1 M KOH) and the conductive interlayer between the surface active sites and semiconductor core which boosts the interfacial charge transfer and photocarrier collection. The facile fabrication of the TiO2/FeMnP core/shell nanorod array photoanode offers a compelling strategy for preparing highly efficient photoelectrochemical solar energy conversion devices.

Concepts: Oxygen, Water, Sun, Hydrogen, Photoelectrochemical cell, Chemical vapor deposition, Titanium, Oxygen evolution


The increasing human need for clean and renewable energy has stimulated research in artificial photosynthesis, and in particular water photoelectrolysis as a pathway to hydrogen fuel. Nanostructured devices are widely regarded as an opportunity to improve efficiency and lower costs, but as a detailed analysis shows, they also have considerably disadvantages. This article reviews the current state of research on nanoscale-enhanced photoelectrodes and photocatalysts for the water splitting reaction. The focus is on transition metal oxides with special emphasis of Fe(2)O(3), but nitrides and chalcogenides, and main group element compounds, including carbon nitride and silicon, are also covered. The effects of nanostructuring on carrier generation and collection, multiple exciton generation, and quantum confinement are also discussed, as well as implications of particle size on surface recombination, on the size of space charge layers and on the possibility of controlling nanostructure energetics via potential determining ions. After a summary of electrocatalytic and plasmonic nanostructures, the review concludes with an outlook on the challenges in solar fuel generation with nanoscale inorganic materials.

Concepts: Oxygen, Energy, Hydrogen, Atom, Photoelectrochemical cell, Transition metal, Photocatalytic water splitting, Artificial photosynthesis


Some recent studies mainly addressing the preparation and the modification of nanostructured thin films based on WO(3) and their application to photoelectrolysis of aqueous electrolytes are reviewed with the aim of rationalizing the main factors at the basis of an efficient photoanodic response. WO(3) represents one of the few materials which can achieve efficient water photo-oxidation under visible illumination, stably operating under strongly oxidizing conditions; thus the discussion of the structure-related photoelectrochemical properties of WO(3) thin films and their optimization for achieving almost quantitative photon to electron conversion constitutes the core of this contribution.

Concepts: Light, Atom, Photoelectrochemical cell, The Core, Application software


A new 1D core-shell strategy is demonstrated for a hydrogen-generation photo-electrochemical cell (PEC). This Si/iodine-doped poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) 1D nanocable array shows an encouraging solar-to-chemical energy-conversion efficiency. Coating with iodine-doped PEDOT can effectively enhance the photocatalytic efficiency and stability of SiNW arrays. The PEC model proposed shows a potentially promising structure for H(2) production using solar energy.

Concepts: Sun, Mass, Model theory, Photoelectrochemical cell, Titanium dioxide, Photocatalysis, Photocatalytic water splitting, Hydrogen production