A monolithic device for solar water splitting based on series interconnected thin film absorbers reaching over 10% solar-to-hydrogen efficiency†
Efficient production of hydrogen from solar energy is anticipated to be an important component in a future sustainable post-carbon energy system. Here we demonstrate that series interconnected absorbers in a PV-electrolysis configuration based on the compound semiconductor CIGS, CuInxGa1−xSe2, are a highly interesting concept for solar water splitting applications. The band gap energy of CIGS can be adjusted to a value close to optimum for efficient absorption of the solar spectrum, but is too low to drive overall water splitting. Therefore we connect three cells in series, into a monolithic device, which provides sufficient driving force for the full reaction. Integrated with a catalyst this forms a stable PV/photo-electrochemical device, which when immersed in water reaches over 10% solar-to-hydrogen efficiency for unassisted water splitting. The results show that series interconnected device concepts, which enable use of a substantial part of the solar spectrum, provide a simple route towards highly efficient water splitting and could be used also for other solar absorbers with similar electro-optical properties. We discuss how the efficiency could be increased for this particular device, as well as the general applicability of the concepts used in this work. We also briefly discuss advantages and disadvantages of photo-electrochemical cells in relation to PV-electrolysis with respect to our results.