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Nanotechnology. 2017 Jul 21;28(29):295401. doi: 10.1088/1361-6528/aa752f. Epub 2017 Jun 26.

Characterization of opto-electrical enhancement of tandem photoelectrochemical cells by using photoconductive-AFM.

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Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, Eumseong 27737, Republic of Korea. Photocatalytic Synthesis Group, MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, Netherlands.


Solar-to-hydrogen conversion by water splitting in photoelectrochemical cells (PECs) is a promising approach to alleviate problems associated with intermittency in solar energy supply and demand. Several interfacial resistances in photoelectrodes limit the performance of such cells, while the properties of interfaces are not easy to analyze in situ. We applied photoconductive-AFM to analyze the performance of WO3/p+n Si photoanodes, containing an ultra-thin metal interface of either Au or Pt. The Au interface consisted of Au nanoparticles with well-ordered interspacing, while Pt was present in the form of a continuous film. Photoconductive-AFM data show that upon illumination significantly larger currents are measured for the WO3/p+n Si anode equipped with the Au interface, as compared to the WO3/p+n Si anode with the Pt interface, in agreement with the better performance of the former electrode in a photoelectrochemical cell. The remarkable performance of the Au-containing electrode is proposed to be the result of favorable electron-hole recombination rates induced by the Au nanoparticles in a plasmon resonance excited state.


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