Quantifying bulk and surface recombination processes in nanostructured water splitting photocatalysts via in situ ultrafast spectroscopy

Academic Article


  • A quantitative description of recombination processes in nanostructured semiconductor photocatalysts-one that distinguishes between bulk (charge transport) and surface (chemical reaction) losses-is critical for advancing solar-to-fuel technologies. Here we present an in situ experimental framework that determines the bias-dependent quantum yield for ultrafast carrier transport to the reactive interface. This is achieved by simultaneously measuring the electrical characteristics and the subpicosecond charge dynamics of a heterostructured photoanode in a working photoelectrochemical cell. Together with direct measurements of the overall incident-photon-to-current efficiency, we illustrate how subtle structural modifications that are not perceivable by conventional X-ray diffraction can drastically affect the overall photocatalytic quantum yield. We reveal how charge carrier recombination losses occurring on ultrafast time scales can limit the overall efficiency even in nanostructures with dimensions smaller than the minority carrier diffusion length. This is particularly true for materials with high carrier concentration, where losses as high as 37% are observed. Our methodology provides a means of evaluating the efficacy of multifunctional designs where high overall efficiency is achieved by maximizing surface transport yield to near unity and utilizing surface layers with enhanced activity.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Appavoo K; Liu M; Black CT; Sfeir MY
  • Start Page

  • 1076
  • End Page

  • 1082
  • Volume

  • 15
  • Issue

  • 2