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Photoelectrochemistry by Design: Tailoring the Nanoscale Structure of Pt/NiO Composites Leads to Enhanced Photoelectrochemical Hydrogen Evolution Performance

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journal contribution
posted on 05.04.2017, 00:00 authored by András Sápi, András Varga, Gergely F. Samu, Dorina Dobó, Koppány L. Juhász, Bettina Takács, Erika Varga, Ákos Kukovecz, Zoltán Kónya, Csaba Janáky
Photoelectrochemical hydrogen evolution is a promising avenue to store the energy of sunlight in the form of chemical bonds. The recent rapid development of new synthetic approaches enables the nanoscale engineering of semiconductor photoelectrodes, thus tailoring their physicochemical properties toward efficient H2 formation. In this work, we carried out the parallel optimization of the morphological features of the semiconductor light absorber (NiO) and the cocatalyst (Pt). While nanoporous NiO films were obtained by electrochemical anodization, the monodisperse Pt nanoparticles were synthesized using wet chemical methods. The Pt/NiO nanocomposites were characterized by XRD, XPS, SEM, ED, TEM, cyclic voltammetry, photovoltammetry, EIS, etc. The relative enhancement of the photocurrent was demonstrated as a function of the nanoparticle size and loading. For mass-specific surface activity the smallest nanoparticles (2.0 and 4.8 nm) showed the best performance. After deconvoluting the trivial geometrical effects (stemming from the variation of Pt particle size and thus the electroactive surface area), however, the intermediate particle sizes (4.8 and 7.2 nm) were found to be optimal. Under optimized conditions, a 20-fold increase in the photocurrent (and thus the H2 evolution rates) was observed for the nanostructured Pt/NiO composite, compared to the benchmark nanoparticulate NiO film.