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Dynamic Photoelectrochemical Device Using an Electrolyte-Permeable NiOx/SiO2/Si Photocathode with an Open-Circuit Potential of 0.75 V

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journal contribution
posted on 07.02.2018, 00:00 by Jin-Young Jung, Jin-Young Yu, Jung-Ho Lee
As a thermodynamic driving force obtained from sunlight, the open-circuit potential (OCP) in photoelectrochemical cells is typically limited by the photovoltage (Vph). In this work, we establish that the OCP can exceed the value of Vph when an electrolyte-permeable NiOx thin film is employed as an electrocatalyst in a Si photocathode. The built-in potential developed at the NiOx/Si junction is adjusted in situ according to the progress of the NiOx hydration for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). As a result of decoupling of the OCP from Vph, a high OCP value of 0.75 V (vs reversible hydrogen electrode) is obtained after 1 h operation of HER in an alkaline electrolyte (pH = 14), thus outperforming the highest value (0.64 V) reported to date with conventional Si photoelectrodes. This finding might offer insight into novel photocathode designs such as those based on tandem water-splitting systems.