Creation of active water-splitting photocatalysts by controlling cocatalysts using atomically precise metal nanoclusters
With global warming and the depletion of fossil resources, our fossil-fuel-dependent society is expected to shift to one that instead uses hydrogen (H2) as clean and renewable energy. Water-splitting photocatalysts can produce H2 from water using sunlight, which are almost infinite on the earth. However, further improvements are indispensable to enable their practical application. To improve the efficiency of the photocatalytic water-splitting reaction, in addition to improving the semiconductor photocatalyst, it is extremely effective to improve the cocatalysts (loaded metal nanoclusters, NCs) that enable the reaction to proceed on the photocatalysts. We have thus attempted to strictly control metal NCs on photocatalysts by introducing the precise-control techniques of metal NCs established in the metal NC field into research on water-splitting photocatalysts. Specifically, the cocatalysts on the photocatalysts were controlled by adsorbing atomically precise metal NCs on the photocatalysts and then removing the protective ligands by calcination. This work has led to several findings on the electronic/geometrical structures of the loaded metal NCs, the correlation between the types of loaded metal NCs and the water-splitting activity, and the methods for producing high water-splitting activity. We expect that the obtained knowledge will lead to clear design guidelines for the creation of practical water-splitting photocatalysts and thereby contribute to the construction of a hydrogen-energy society.