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Samantha Hilliard

Water splitting photoelectrocatalysis: The conception and construction of a photoelectrocatalytic water splitting cell

Published on 23 February 2016


Thesis presented on February 23, 2016

Abstract:
Solar water splitting by photoelectrocatalysis is a proposed long term solution for the production of renewable hydrogen. A wired dual photosystem photoelectrocatalytic cell is thermodynamically considered to possess the highest attainable solar-to-hydrogen efficiency. To realize a photoelectrocatalytic water splitting cell for practical application, facile fabrication methods and abundant low cost materials are essential. This research investigates tungsten trioxide (WO3) and bismuth vanadate (BiVO4) as thin film n-photoanodes to complete the oxygen evolution half reaction for water splitting application in a tandem dual photosystem photoeletrocatalyic water splitting cell. These thin films are fabricated by low cost, robust, scalable, sol-gel dip coating methods and characterized by several techniques to verify the physical characteristics and photochemical performance. WO3 and BiVO4 are optimized by nanostructuration, interfacial surface modification, and addition of surface co-catalysts to increase performance and stability in acidic and neutral conditions, respectively. These materials are coupled with a copper (II) oxide p-photocathode to drive the hydrogen evolution reaction in a photoelectrocatalyic cell to complete the water splitting reaction. The photoelectrocatalytic cell constructed is inspired by previous literature reports encompassing an innovative tandem dual photosystem approach. As a result, this research reports one of the only entirely metal oxide based photoelectrocatalytic water splitting cells, fabricated by inexpensive, unexcessive techniques, resulting in a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 0.01% and an applied bias to photon efficiency of 0.06%.

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