Tantalum-based semiconductors for solar water splitting
Solar energy utilization is one of the most promising solutions for the energy crises. Among all the possible means to make use of solar energy, solar water splitting is remarkable since it can accomplish the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy. The produced hydrogen is clean and sustainable which could be used in various areas. For the past decades, numerous efforts have been put into this research area with many important achievements. Improving the overall efficiency and stability of semiconductor photocatalysts are the research focuses for the solar water splitting. Tantalum-based semiconductors, including tantalum oxide, tantalate and tantalum (oxy)nitride, are among the most important photocatalysts. Tantalum oxide has the band gap energy that is suitable for the overall solar water splitting. The more negative conduction band minimum of tantalum oxide provides photogenerated electrons with higher potential for the hydrogen generation reaction. Tantalates, with tunable compositions, show high activities owning to their layered perovskite structure. (Oxy)nitrides, especially TaON and Ta3N5, have small band gaps to respond to visible-light, whereas they can still realize overall solar water splitting with the proper positions of conduction band minimum and valence band maximum. This review describes recent progress regarding the improvement of photocatalytic activities of tantalum-based semiconductors. Basic concepts and principles of solar water splitting will be discussed in the introduction section, followed by the three main categories regarding to the different types of tantalum-based semiconductors. In each category, synthetic methodologies, influencing factors on the photocatalytic activities, strategies to enhance the efficiencies of photocatalysts and morphology control of tantalum-based materials will be discussed in detail. Future directions to further explore the research area of tantalum-based semiconductors for solar water splitting are also discussed.