N-doped graphene quantum sheets on silicon nanowire photocathodes for hydrogen production†
Photoelectrochemical hydrogen production from solar energy has been attracting much attention in the field of renewable energy technology. The realization of cost-effective hydrogen production by water splitting requires electrolysis or photoelectrochemical cells decorated with highly efficient co-catalysts. A critical requirement for catalysts in photoelectrochemical cells is not only the ability to boost the kinetics of a chemical reaction but also to exhibit durability against electrochemical and photoinduced degradation. In the race to replace previous noble-metal catalysts, the design of carbon-based catalysts represents an important research direction in the search for non-precious, environmentally benign, and corrosion-resistant catalysts. Herein, we suggest graphene quantum sheets as a catalyst for the solar-driven hydrogen evolution reaction on Si nanowire photocathodes. The optimum nanostructures of the Si photocathodes exhibit an enhanced photocurrent and a lower overpotential compared to those of a planar Si surface. This significant enhancement demonstrates how graphene quantum sheet catalysts can be used to produce Si nanowire photocathodes as hydrogen evolution reaction catalysts with high activity.