Nanocrystals and Nanoclusters as Cocatalysts for Photocatalytic Water Splitting
KAUST DepartmentPhysical Sciences and Engineering (PSE) Division
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AbstractThe energy consumptions worldwide have increased simultaneously with the growth of the population and of the economy. Nowadays, finding an alternative way to satisfy the energy demand is one of the great challenges for the future of humanity, especially due to the limitation of fossil fuels and their effect on global warming. Hydrogen, as an alternative fuel for the future, is very attractive. Compared to traditional methods, such as the steam reforming of natural gas or coal gasification, photocatalytic water splitting (PWS) is considered to be the most sustainable alternative for producing hydrogen as a future fuel. PWS usually relies on semiconductor material that can transform the absorbed solar photon into photogenerated electrons and holes, creating a photopotential which can drive the electrochemical production of molecular hydrogen from the reduction of water. Despite its promising application, semiconductor-based PWS usually suffers from low carrier mobility and short diffusion length. Furthermore, the recombination of photogenerated electrons and holes might occur, especially if there are no suitable reaction sites available on the surface of the semiconductor. In order to facilitate the catalytic reactions on the surface of the semiconductor, the presence of a cocatalyst is necessary in order to obtain more efficient PWS processes. To this day, noble metals such as Pt, Pd, RuO2 and IrO2 are still the benchmark cocatalysts for PWS. Nevertheless, due to their high cost and limited supply, it is mandatory to develop a suitable strategy and to identify more efficient materials. Therefore, within the framework of this dissertation, novel cocatalysts and strategies that can improve the efficiency of the photocatalytic water splitting processes have been developed. Firstly, we developed a cocatalyst combining noble metals and semiconductors by means of partial galvanic replacement of the Cu2O nanocrystal with Au. The deposition of this cocatalyst on TiO2 was studied for the photocatalytic H2 production in order to explore the synergistic effect of the plasmonic resonance from the Au nanoparticles and pn-junction between Cu2O and TiO2. Additionally, the plasmonic effect of the Au films was also studied and utilized in order to improve the PWS. Secondly, the nanoscaling of cocatalysts was studied in order to improve the efficiency thereof and to reduce the cost of the cocatalyst materials. Moreover, it is sought to explore the quantum size effect on the properties of the cocatalyst and their effect on the photocatalytic reaction. Atomically precise Au and Ni nanoclusters were employed in these studies. Au nanoclusters were studied in relation to the cocatalysts in the photocatalytic water splitting, and Ni nanoclusters were studied in relation to the cocatalysts in the electrocatalytic water oxidation. The results of these studies will provide new insights in relation to the strategy used in order to develop efficient cocatalysts for the purpose of photocatalytic water splitting.