(436d) Efficient Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting With Si-Based Metal-Insulator-Semiconductor Photoelectrodes | AIChE

(436d) Efficient Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting With Si-Based Metal-Insulator-Semiconductor Photoelectrodes


Esposito, D. V. - Presenter, University of Delaware
Lee, Y., National Instittue of Standards and Technology
Talin, A. A., Sandia National Laboratories
Moffat, T. P., National Institute of Standards and Technology

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting is an attractive pathway for renewable production of hydrogen, but the efficiency and stability of semiconducting photoelectrodes must be improved. One promising approach to achieve both high efficiency and good electrochemical stability is the metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) photoelectrode architecture.[1,2] The MIS design consists of catalytic metal structures, or collectors, deposited on a 1-3 nm thick oxide-covered semiconductor. Of great importance to this design is the thin insulating oxide layer, which must protect the semiconductor from the potentially corrosive electrolyte while simultaneously mediating minority carrier tunneling between the semiconductor and collectors. In recently published work,[2] we have demonstrated significant improvement in the performance of Si-based MIS photocathodes through interfacial engineering. These planar photocathodes exhibit excellent stability and appreciable photoelectrode conversion efficiencies, up to 2.9%, but further improvement in efficiency must be achieved in order to make this process economically viable.

            In this work, nano- and micro-structured Si-based MIS photoelectrodes fabricated by reactive ion etching and vapor-liquid-solid chemical vapor deposition are explored as a means to further increase the efficiency of Si-based photoelectrodes. The use of 3D-structured electrodes offer several potential advantages for achieving higher efficiency, including increased surface area for catalysis, improved collection of photo-generated carriers, and decreased optical reflection losses. However, the use of 3D photoelectrodes also introduces detrimental effects that create trade-offs between optical, catalytic, and electronic properties. In this talk, design principles for optimizing the performance of 3D-structured photoelectrodes are described and a comparison of the performance of planar and 3D-structured MIS photoelectrodes is presented. The incorporation of MIS photoelectrodes into stand-alone PEC water splitting devices will also be discussed. Calculations based on the method of detailed balance show that PEC devices utilizing Si-based MIS photoelectrodes are capable of achieving solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiencies greater than the 2015 efficiency target of 15% set by the Department of Energy.[3]


[1.] H.J. Lewerenz, et al., Electrochem. Acta, 2011, 56, 10726.

[2.] D.V. Esposito, I. Levin, T.P. Moffat, A.A. Talin, Nature Materials, 2013, (in press).

[3.] Fuel Cells Technologies Office Multi-Year Research, Development and Demonstration Plan. US Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Available from: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/mypp/ (2012)