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Solar Hydrogen Generation by a CdS-Au-TiO2 Sandwich Nanorod Array Enhanced with Au Nanoparticle as Electron Relay and Plasmonic Photosensitizer

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journal contribution
posted on 11.06.2014 by Jiangtian Li, Scott K. Cushing, Peng Zheng, Tess Senty, Fanke Meng, Alan D. Bristow, Ayyakkannu Manivannan, Nianqiang Wu
This paper presents a sandwich-structured CdS-Au-TiO2 nanorod array as the photoanode in a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) for hydrogen generation via splitting water. The gold nanoparticles sandwiched between the TiO2 nanorod and the CdS quantum dot (QD) layer play a dual role in enhancing the solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency. First, the Au nanoparticles serve as an electron relay, which facilitates the charge transfer between CdS and TiO2 when the CdS QDs are photoexcited by wavelengths shorter than 525 nm. Second, the Au nanoparticles act as a plasmonic photosensitizer, which enables the solar-to-hydrogen conversion at wavelengths longer than the band edge of CdS, extending the photoconversion wavelength from 525 to 725 nm. The dual role of Au leads to a photocurrent of 4.07 mA/cm2 at 0 V (vs Ag|AgCl) under full solar spectrum irradiation and a maximum solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency of 2.8%. An inversion analysis is applied to the transient absorption spectroscopy data, tracking the transfer of electrons and holes in the heterostructure, relating the relaxation dynamics to the underlying coupled rate equation and revealing that trap-state Auger recombination is a dominant factor in interfacial charge transfer. It is found that addition of Au nanoparticles increases the charge-transfer lifetime, reduces the trap-state Auger rate, suppresses the long-time scale back transfer, and partially compensates the negative effects of the surface trap states. Finally, the plasmonic energy-transfer mechanism is identified as direct transfer of the plasmonic hot carriers, and the interfacial Schottky barrier height is shown to modulate the plasmonic hot electron transfer and back transfer. Transient absorption characterization of the charge transfer shows defect states cannot be ignored when designing QD-sensitized solar cells. This facile sandwich structure combines both the electrical and the optical functions of Au nanoparticles into a single structure, which has implications for the design of efficient solar-energy-harvesting devices.