ZnO nanotetrapods are distinguished by their unique nanocrystalline geometric form with four tetrahedrally directed arms, which endows them the ability to handily assemble three-dimensional network structures. Such network structures, coupled with the intrinsically excellent electronic properties of the semiconducting ZnO, have proved advantageous for building photoelectrodes in energy conversion devices since they allow fast vectorial electron transport. In this review article, we summarize recent efforts, with partial emphasis on our own, in the development of ZnO nanotetrapod-based devices for solar energy conversion, including dye-sensitized solar cells and photoelectrochemical cells for water splitting. A pure ZnO nanotetrapod network was firstly demonstrated to have excellent charge collection properties even with just physical contacts. Composition design of ZnO nanotetrapods/SnO2 nanoparticles yielded a high efficiency of 4.91% in flexible DSSCs. More significantly, by secondary branching and nitrogen doping, a record performance for water splitting has been achieved. A perspective on future research directions in ZnO nanotetrapod-based solar energy conversion devices is also discussed together with possible strategies of pursuit. It is hoped that the results obtained so far with the ZnO nanotetrapods could inspire and catalyze future developments of solar energy conversion systems based on branched nanostructural materials, contributing to solving global energy and environmental issues.
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