Photoelectrochemical water splitting: a road from stable metal oxides to protected thin film solar cells
Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting has attracted great attention during past decades thanks to the possibility to reduce the production costs of hydrogen or other solar fuels, by doing so in a single step and powered by the largest source of renewable energy: the sun. Despite significant efforts to date, the productivities of stable semiconductor materials in contact with the electrolyte are limited, pushing a growing scientific community towards more complex photoelectrode structures. During the last decade, several groups have focused on the strategy of incorporating state of the art photovoltaic absorber materials (such as silicon, III–V compounds and chalcogenide-based thin films). The stability of these devices in harsh acidic or alkaline electrolytes has become a key issue, pushing transparent, conductive and protective layer research. The present review offers a detailed analysis of PEC devices from metal oxide electrodes forming a semiconductor–liquid junction to protected and catalyst-decorated third generation solar cells adapted into photoelectrodes. It consists of a complete overview of PEC systems, from nanoscale design to full device scheme, with a special focus on disruptive advances enhancing efficiency and stability. Fundamental concepts, fabrication techniques and cell schemes are also discussed, and perspectives and challenges for future research are pointed out.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Journal of Materials Chemistry A Recent Review Articles