Copper(ii) tungstate nanoflake array films: sacrificial template synthesis, hydrogen treatment, and their application as photoanodes in solar water splitting†
We report the preparation of CuWO4 nanoflake (NF) array films by using a solid phase reaction method in which WO3 NFs were employed as sacrificial templates. The SEM, TEM and XRD results demonstrated that the obtained CuWO4 films possessed a network structure that was composed of single crystalline NFs intersected with each other. The CuWO4 NF films showed superior photoelectrochemical (PEC) activity to other CuWO4 photoanodes reported recently for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). We attributed the high activity to the unique morphological and crystalline structure of the CuWO4 film, which enhanced the photoactivity by providing a large specific area, a short hole transport distance from the inside of CuWO4 to the CuWO4/solution interface, and a low grain boundary density. Hydrogen treatment by annealing the CuWO4 NF film in mixed gases of H2 and Ar could further enhance the photoactivity, as hydrogen treatment significantly increased the electron density of CuWO4 by generating oxygen vacancy in the lattice. The photocurrent density for OER obtained on the hydrogen-treated (H-treated) CuWO4 NF film is the largest ever reported on CuWO4 photoanodes in the literature. Moreover, the CuWO4 photoanodes exhibit good stability in weak alkaline solution, while the H-treated CuWO4 photoanodes exhibit acceptable stability. This work not only reveals the potential of CuWO4 as a photoanode material for solar water splitting but also shows that the construction of nanostructured CuWO4 photoanodes is a promising method to achieve high PEC activity toward OER.