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Photocatalytic hydrogen production with iron oxide under solar irradiation

By Simin Liu


As solar hydrogen is a sustainable and environmental friendly energy carrier, it is considered to take the place of fossil fuels in the near future. Solar hydrogen can be generated by splitting of water under solar light illumination. In this study, the use of nanostructured hematite thin-film electrodes in photocatalytic water splitting was investigated. Hematite (á-Fe2O3) has a narrow band-gap of 2.2 eV, which is able to utilise approximately 40% of solar radiation. However, poor photoelectrochemical performance is observed for hematite due to low electrical conductivity and a high rate of electron-hole recombination. An extensive review of useful measures taken to overcoming the disadvantages of hematite so as to enhance its performance was presented including thin-film structure, nanostructuring, doping, etc. Since semiconductoring materials which exhibit an inverse opal structure are expected to have a high surface-volume ratio, unique optical characteristics and a shorter distance for photogenerated holes to travel to the electrode/electrolyte interface, inverse opals of hematite thin films deposited on FTO glass substrate were successfully prepared by doctor blading using PMMA as a template. However, due to the poor adhesion of the films, an acidic medium (i.e., 2 M HCl) was employed to significantly enhance the adhesion of the films, which completely destroyed the inverse opal structure. Therefore, undoped, Ti and Zn-doped hematite thin films deposied on FTO glass substrate without an inverse opal structure were prepared by doctor blading and spray pyrolysis and characterised using SEM, EDX, XRD, TGA, UV-Vis spectroscopy and photoelectrochemical measurements. Regarding the doped hematite thin films prepared by doctor blading, the photoelectrochemical activity of the hematite photoelectrodes was improved by incorporation of Ti, most likely owing to the increased electrical conductivity of the films, the stabilisation of oxygen vacancies by Ti4+ ions and the increased electric field of the space charge layer. A highest photoresponse was recorded in case of 2.5 at.% Ti which seemed to be an optimal concentration. The effect of doping content, thickness, and calcination temperature on the performance of the Ti-doped photoelectrodes was investigated. Also, the photoactivity of the 2.5 at.% Ti-doped samples was examined in two different types of electrochemical cells. Zn doping did not enhance the photoactivity of the hematite thin films though Zn seemed to enhance the hole transport due to the slow hole mobility of hematite which could not be overcome by the enhancement. The poor performance was also obtained for the Ti-doped samples prepared by spray pyrolysis, which appeared to be a result of introduction of impurities from the metallic parts of the spray gun in an acidic medium. Further characterisation of the thin-film electrodes is required to explain the mechanism by which enhanced performance was obtained for Ti-doped electrodes (doctor blading) and poor photoactivity for Zn and Ti-doped samples which were synthesised by doctor blading and spray pyrolysis, respectively. Ti-doped hematite thin films will be synthesised in another way, such as dip coating so as to maintain an inverse opal structure as well as well adhesion. Also, a comparative study of the films will be carried out

Topics: photocatalytic hydrogen, solar irradiation, solar hydrogen, photocatalytic water splitting, semiconductoring materials, nanostructured hematite
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2010
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