Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology researchers design durable organic semiconductor photocathodes with metal foil encapsulation

With this approach, the developed photocathodes exhibit remarkable stability and demonstrate sunlight-driven clean hydrogen production via water splitting.

GWANGJU, South Korea, September 23, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Hydrogen is emerging as a popular green alternative to fossil fuel resources due to its carbon neutral combustion products (water, electricity and heat) and is considered the next generation fuel for a zero emission system . society. However, the main source of hydrogen is, ironically, fossil fuels.

One way to produce hydrogen cleanly and sustainably is by splitting water powered by sunlight. The process, known as “photoelectrochemical water splitting (PEC)” is the basis of the operation of organic photovoltaic cells. What makes this method attractive is that it allows for 1) massive hydrogen production in a limited space without a grid system and 2) highly efficient conversion of solar energy to hydrogen. However, despite such advantages, the photoactive materials used in conventional PECs do not have the properties required for a commercial setting. In this regard, organic semiconductors (OS) have emerged as a potential photoelectrode material for commercial PEC hydrogen production due to their high yield and low printing cost. But, on the negative side, OSs have poor chemical stability and low photocurrent density.

Now, a team of researchers led by Prof. Sanghan Lee from the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, Korea, may have finally solved this problem. In his recent breakthrough that appeared on the cover of the magazine Journal of Chemistry of Materials AThe team adopted an approach based on encapsulating the OS photocathode in a platinum-decorated titanium foil, a technique known as “metal foil encapsulation”, to prevent its exposure to the electrolyte solution.

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“Metal foil encapsulation is a powerful approach to realizing long-term stable SO-based photocathodes, as it helps prevent electrolyte penetration of SO., improving its long-term stability as has been shown in our previous studies and other reports on OS-based photoelectrodes,explains Prof. Lee. The study was made available online at May 14, 2022 and was published in issue 25 of the magazine 07 July 2022.

The team fabricated an organic photovoltaic cell, in which the OS photocathode was covered with a titanium foil and well-dispersed platinum nanoparticles. Upon testing, the OS photocathode showed a starting potential of 1 V against the reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE) and a photocurrent density of -12.3 mA cm-two at 0VRHE. Most notably, the cell demonstrated record operating stability, retaining 95.4% of maximum photocurrent for over 30 hours without any noticeable deterioration in the operating system. Furthermore, the team tested the module under real sunlight and was able to produce hydrogen.

The highly stable and efficient PEC module developed in this study can enable large-scale hydrogen production and inspire innovative routes to build future hydrogen refueling stations. “With the growing threat of global warming, it is imperative to develop green energy sources. The PEC module explored in our study could be installed in hydrogen filling stations, where hydrogen can be mass-produced and sold at the same time,speculates an optimistic Prof. Lee.

We hope your vision becomes a reality soon!


Original article title: A long-term stable organic semiconductor photocathode-based photoelectrochemical module system for hydrogen production

Daily: Journal of Chemistry of Materials A

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