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Visible light-driven catalysts for water oxidation : towards solar fuel biorefineries

Abstract : Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting is a direct way of producing a solar fuel like hydrogen from water. The bottleneck of this process is in the photoanode, which is responsible for the water oxidation side of the reaction1,2. In this work, the use of BiVO4 as a photoanode was extensively studied in order to improve its photoactivity. The optimization of BiVO4 photoanode synthesis via thin film electrodeposition on FTO was performed. The factors affecting the photoelectrochemical activity such as the electrodeposition time, ratio of the Bi-KI to benzoquinone-EtOH in the deposition bath, and the calcination temperature, have been investigated by using the Central Composite Design of Experiments.Surface states on the BiVO4 surface give rise to defect levels, which can mediate electron-hole recombination via the Shockley-Read-Hall mechanism5. In order to protect the BiVO4 surface and minimize the inefficiencies due to electron-hole recombination and passivate the surface states, ultrathin overlayers of Al2O3 and TiO2 were deposited to the BiVO4 thin film electrodes in an ALD-like manner. A photocurrent density of 0.54 mA/cm2 at 1.23 V vs RHE was obtained for the 2 cycles Al2O3-modified BiVO4, which was a 54% improvement from the bare BiVO4 that demonstrated a photocurrent density of 0.35 mA/cm2 at 1.23 V vs RHE. A 15% increase in stability of the Al2O3- modified BiVO4 electrode was also observed over 7.5 hours of continuous irradiation. Moreover, through surface capacitance measurements, it was shown that the Al2O3 overlayer was indeed passivating the surface states of the BiVO4 electrodes. The nature of the BiVO4 surface was studied by investigating the reactivity of powder BiVO4 with a chemical titrant. The existence of surface hydroxyl groups on BiVO4 was confirmed and quantified (max 1.5 OH/nm2) via chemical titration. The reaction of the BiVO4 powder with one pulse of AlMe3 and 1 pulse of H2O showed that there were 1.2 molecules of CH4 evolved per Bi-OH. In this work, we were able to highlight which factors are important in the synthesis of BiVO4, and how they affect the resulting photoactivity. We have also achieved the passivation of the BiVO4 surface states using Al2O3, which is not well-explored in literature. Moreover, we were able to probe and discuss the nature of the BiVO4 surface. This is a very fundamental knowledge and the first report of such, to the best of our knowledge. A good understanding of this important semiconductor surface and its interactions will aid in the design of a more efficient BiVO4 photoanode
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Kristine Tolod. Visible light-driven catalysts for water oxidation : towards solar fuel biorefineries. Catalysis. Université de Lyon; Politecnico di Torino, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019LYSE1053⟩. ⟨tel-02569399v2⟩

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