Understanding the anatase–rutile phase junction in charge separation and transfer in a TiO2 electrode for photoelectrochemical water splitting
New insight into junction-based designs for efficient charge separation is vitally important for current solar energy conversion research. Herein, an anatase–rutile phase junction is elaborately introduced into TiO2 films by rapid thermal annealing treatment and the roles of phase junction on charge separation and transfer are studied in detail. A combined study of transient absorption spectroscopy, electrochemical and photoelectrochemical (PEC) measurements reveals that appropriate phase alignment is essential for unidirectional charge transfer, and a junction interface with minimized trap states is crucial to liberate the charge separation potential of the phase junction. By tailored control of phase alignment and interface structure, an optimized TiO2 film with an appropriately introduced phase junction shows superior performance in charge separation and transfer, hence achieving ca. 3 and 9 times photocurrent density enhancement compared to pristine anatase and rutile phase TiO2 electrodes, respectively. This work demonstrates the great potential of phase junctions for efficient charge separation and transfer in solar energy conversion applications.