Unravelling charge separation via surface built-in electric fields within single particulate photocatalysts
Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy (KPFM) and spatially resolved surface photovoltage (SRSPV) techniques were employed to reveal built-in electric fields and surface photogenerated charge distribution on single particulate photocatalysts. The photogenerated holes and electrons spread over the whole surface of the particulate photocatalyst are imaged on n-type BiVO4 and p-type Cu2O single particles, respectively. It is demonstrated that the built-in electric field in the surface Space Charge Region (SCR) dictates the charge separation/transfer processes and allows the drift of one kind of the photogenerated carriers to the surface, while holding another kind of the carriers in the bulk. The results emphasize the role of the SCR played in the unidirectional charge transport between the bulk and surface in the particulate photocatalyst, which may be the crucial reason for low solar energy conversion efficiency.