Varadhan, Purushothaman; Fu, Hui-Chun; Priante, Davide; Duran Retamal, Jose Ramon; Zhao, Chao; Ebaid, Mohamed; Ng, Tien Khee; Ajia, Idris A.; Mitra, Somak; Roqan, Iman S.; Ooi, Boon S.; He, Jr-Hau(Nano Letters, American Chemical Society (ACS), 2017-02-08)[Article]
Hydrogen production via photoelectrochemical water-splitting is a key source of clean and sustainable energy. The use of one-dimensional nanostructures as photoelectrodes is desirable for photoelectrochemical water-splitting applications due to the ultralarge surface areas, lateral carrier extraction schemes, and superior light-harvesting capabilities. However, the unavoidable surface states of nanostructured materials create additional charge carrier trapping centers and energy barriers at the semiconductor-electrolyte interface, which severely reduce the solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency. In this work, we address the issue of surface states in GaN nanowire photoelectrodes by employing a simple and low-cost surface treatment method, which utilizes an organic thiol compound (i.e., 1,2-ethanedithiol). The surface-treated photocathode showed an enhanced photocurrent density of −31 mA/cm at −0.2 V versus RHE with an incident photon-to-current conversion efficiency of 18.3%, whereas untreated nanowires yielded only 8.1% efficiency. Furthermore, the surface passivation provides enhanced photoelectrochemical stability as surface-treated nanowires retained ∼80% of their initial photocurrent value and produced 8000 μmol of gas molecules over 55 h at acidic conditions (pH ∼ 0), whereas the untreated nanowires demonstrated only <4 h of photoelectrochemical stability. These findings shed new light on the importance of surface passivation of nanostructured photoelectrodes for photoelectrochemical applications.
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