New aspects of improving the performance of WO3 thin films for photoelectrochemical water splitting by tuning the ultrathin depletion region†
In this work, we explored a facile, scalable and effective method for substantially enhancing photocurrent and incident-photon-to-current efficiency of WO3 thin-film photoanodes by a mild reduction treatment under low oxygen pressure. Experimental data from photoelectrochemical and electrochemical impedance spectroscopies have shown that such treatment can increase the charge carrier density on WO3 photoanode surfaces resulting in improvements in hole collection efficiency and reduction in charge recombination. Despite a much thinner layer of WO3 (about 500 nm) compared to those in other published studies, the electrodes exhibited an ultra-high photocurrent density of 1.81 mA cm−2 at 1.23 V vs. RHE. This current density is one of the highest ones among WO3-based photoanodes described in literature. The proposed surface modulation approach offers an effective and scalable method to prepare high-performance thin film photoanodes for photoelectrochemical water splitting.