Assessing the scalability of low conductivity substrates for photo-electrodes via modelling of resistive losses
When scaling up photo-electrochemical processes to larger areas than conventionally studied in the laboratory, substrate performance must be taken into consideration and in this work, a methodology to assess this via an uncomplicated 2 dimensional model is outlined. It highlights that for F-doped SnO2 (FTO), which is ubiquitously used for metal oxide photoanodes, substrate performance becomes significant for moderately sized electrodes (5 cm) under no solar concentration for state of the art Fe2O3 thin films. It is demonstrated that when the process is intensified via solar concentration, current losses become quickly limiting. Methodologies to reduce the impact of substrate ohmic losses are discussed and a new strategy is proposed. Due to the nature of the photo-electrode current–potential relationship, operation at a higher potential where the photo-current saturates (before the dark current is observed) will lead to a minimum in current loss due to substrate performance. Crucially, this work outlines an additional challenge in scaling up photo-electrodes based on low conductivity substrates, and establishes that such challenges are not insurmountable.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2018 PCCP HOT Articles