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Issue 31, 2017
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Accurate determination of the charge transfer efficiency of photoanodes for solar water splitting

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The oxygen evolution reaction (OER) at the surface of semiconductor photoanodes is critical for photoelectrochemical water splitting. This reaction involves photo-generated holes that oxidize water via charge transfer at the photoanode/electrolyte interface. However, a certain fraction of the holes that reach the surface recombine with electrons from the conduction band, giving rise to the surface recombination loss. The charge transfer efficiency, ηt, defined as the ratio between the flux of holes that contribute to the water oxidation reaction and the total flux of holes that reach the surface, is an important parameter that helps to distinguish between bulk and surface recombination losses. However, accurate determination of ηt by conventional voltammetry measurements is complicated because only the total current is measured and it is difficult to discern between different contributions to the current. Chopped light measurement (CLM) and hole scavenger measurement (HSM) techniques are widely employed to determine ηt, but they often lead to errors resulting from instrumental as well as fundamental limitations. Intensity modulated photocurrent spectroscopy (IMPS) is better suited for accurate determination of ηt because it provides direct information on both the total photocurrent and the surface recombination current. However, careful analysis of IMPS measurements at different light intensities is required to account for nonlinear effects. This work compares the ηt values obtained by these methods using heteroepitaxial thin-film hematite photoanodes as a case study. We show that a wide spread of ηt values is obtained by different analysis methods, and even within the same method different values may be obtained depending on instrumental and experimental conditions such as the light source and light intensity. Statistical analysis of the results obtained for our model hematite photoanode show good correlation between different methods for measurements carried out with the same light source, light intensity and potential. However, there is a considerable spread in the results obtained by different methods. For accurate determination of ηt, we recommend IMPS measurements in operando with a bias light intensity such that the irradiance is as close as possible to the AM1.5 Global solar spectrum.

Graphical abstract: Accurate determination of the charge transfer efficiency of photoanodes for solar water splitting

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The article was received on 14 Apr 2017, accepted on 12 Jul 2017 and first published on 12 Jul 2017

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7CP02419C
Citation: Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2017,19, 20383-20392
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    Accurate determination of the charge transfer efficiency of photoanodes for solar water splitting

    D. Klotz, D. A. Grave and A. Rothschild, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2017, 19, 20383
    DOI: 10.1039/C7CP02419C

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