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Membrane-Inspired Acidically Stable Dye-Sensitized Photocathode for Solar Fuel Production

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journal contribution
posted on 03.02.2016, 00:00 authored by Kevin A. Click, Damian R. Beauchamp, Zhongjie Huang, Weilin Chen, Yiying Wu
Tandem dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical cells (DSPECs) for water splitting are a promising method for sustainable energy conversion but so far have been limited by their lack of aqueous stability and photocurrent mismatch between the cathode and anode. In nature, membrane-enabled subcellular compartmentation is a general approach to control local chemical environments in the cell. The hydrophobic tails of the lipid make the bilayer impermeable to ions and hydrophilic molecules. Herein we report the use of an organic donor–acceptor dye that prevents both dye desorption and semiconductor degradation by mimicking the hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties of lipid bilayer membranes. The dual-functional photosensitizer (denoted as BH4) allows for efficient light harvesting while also protecting the semiconductor surface from protons and water via its hydrophobic π linker. The protection afforded by this membrane-mimicking dye gives this system excellent stability in extremely acidic (pH 0) conditions. The acidic stability also allows for the use of cubane molybdenum-sulfide cluster as the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) catalyst. This system produces a proton-reducing current of 183 ± 36 μA/cm2 (0 V vs NHE with 300 W Xe lamp) for an unprecedented 16 h with no degradation. These results introduce a method for developing high-current, low-pH DSPECs and are a significant move toward practical dye-sensitized solar fuel production.