Hydrogen-Treated TiO2 Nanowire Arrays for Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064 United States
Key Laboratory of Molecular Engineering of Polymer (Minister of Education), Department of Macromolecular Science and Laboratory of Advanced Materials, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, People’s Republic of China
Cite this: Nano Lett. 2011, 11, 7, 3026–3033
Publication Date (Web):June 28, 2011
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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We report the first demonstration of hydrogen treatment as a simple and effective strategy to fundamentally improve the performance of TiO2 nanowires for photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting. Hydrogen-treated rutile TiO2 (H:TiO2) nanowires were prepared by annealing the pristine TiO2 nanowires in hydrogen atmosphere at various temperatures in a range of 200–550 °C. In comparison to pristine TiO2 nanowires, H:TiO2 samples show substantially enhanced photocurrent in the entire potential window. More importantly, H:TiO2 samples have exceptionally low photocurrent saturation potentials of −0.6 V vs Ag/AgCl (0.4 V vs RHE), indicating very efficient charge separation and transportation. The optimized H:TiO2 nanowire sample yields a photocurrent density of ∼1.97 mA/cm2 at −0.6 V vs Ag/AgCl, in 1 M NaOH solution under the illumination of simulated solar light (100 mW/cm2 from 150 W xenon lamp coupled with an AM 1.5G filter). This photocurrent density corresponds to a solar-to-hydrogen (STH) efficiency of ∼1.63%. After eliminating the discrepancy between the irradiance of the xenon lamp and solar light, by integrating the incident-photon-to-current-conversion efficiency (IPCE) spectrum of the H:TiO2 nanowire sample with a standard AM 1.5G solar spectrum, the STH efficiency is calculated to be ∼1.1%, which is the best value for a TiO2 photoanode. IPCE analyses confirm the photocurrent enhancement is mainly due to the improved photoactivity of TiO2 in the UV region. Hydrogen treatment increases the donor density of TiO2 nanowires by 3 orders of magnitudes, via creating a high density of oxygen vacancies that serve as electron donors. Similar enhancements in photocurrent were also observed in anatase H:TiO2 nanotubes. The capability of making highly photoactive H:TiO2 nanowires and nanotubes opens up new opportunities in various areas, including PEC water splitting, dye-sensitized solar cells, and photocatalysis.

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