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J Phys Chem B. 2005 Sep 15;109(36):17184-91.

Visible light-induced water oxidation on mesoscopic alpha-Fe2O3 films made by ultrasonic spray pyrolysis.

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  • 1Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces (LPI), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.


Alpha-Fe(2)O(3) films having a mesoscopic leaflet type structure were produced for the first time by ultrasonic spray pyrolysis (USP) to explore their potential as oxygen-evolving photoanodes. The target of these studies is to use translucent hematite films deposited on conducting fluorine doped tin oxide (FTO) glass as top electrodes in a tandem cell that accomplishes the cleavage of water into hydrogen and oxygen by sunlight. The properties of layers made by USP were compared to those deposited by conventional spray pyrolysis (SP). Although both types of films show similar XRD and UV-visible and Raman spectra, they differ greatly in their morphology. The mesoscopic alpha-Fe(2)O(3) layers produced by USP consist mainly of 100 nm-sized platelets with a thickness of 5-10 nm. These nanosheets are oriented mainly perpendicularly to the FTO support, their flat surface exposing (001) facets. The mesoscopic leaflet structure has the advantage that it allows for efficient harvesting of visible light, while offering at the same time the very short distance required for the photogenerated holes to reach the electrolyte interface before recombining with conduction band electrons. This allows for water oxidation by the valence band holes even though their diffusion length is only a few nanometers. Distances are longer in the particles produced by SP favoring recombination of photoinduced charge carriers. Open-circuit photovoltage measurements indicate a lower surface state density for the nanoplatelets as compared to the round particles. These factors explain the much higher photoactivity of the USP compared to the SP deposited alpha-Fe(2)O(3) layers. Addition of hydrogen peroxide to the alkaline electrolyte further improves the photocurrent-voltage characteristics of films generated by USP indicating the hole transfer from the valence band of the semiconductor oxide to the adsorbed water to be the rate-limiting kinetic step in the oxygen generation reaction.

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