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ChemSusChem. 2014 May;7(5):1372-85. doi: 10.1002/cssc.201301030. Epub 2014 Apr 1.

Modeling practical performance limits of photoelectrochemical water splitting based on the current state of materials research.

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  • 1Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University, 381 North-South Axis, Stanford, CA 94305 (USA)


Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting is a means to store solar energy in the form of hydrogen. Knowledge of practical limits for this process can help researchers assess their technology and guide future directions. We develop a model to quantify loss mechanisms in PEC water splitting based on the current state of materials research and calculate maximum solar-to-hydrogen (STH) conversion efficiencies along with associated optimal absorber band gaps. Various absorber configurations are modeled considering the major loss mechanisms in PEC devices. Quantitative sensitivity analyses for each loss mechanism and each absorber configuration show a profound impact of both on the resulting STH efficiencies, which can reach upwards of 25 % for the highest performance materials in a dual stacked configuration. Higher efficiencies could be reached as improved materials are developed. The results of the modeling also identify and quantify approaches that can improve system performance when working with imperfect materials.


electrochemistry; energy conversion; photochemistry; semiconductors; water splitting

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