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Solar-Driven Water Oxidation and Decoupled Hydrogen Production Mediated by an Electron-Coupled-Proton Buffer

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journal contribution
posted on 09.05.2016, 00:00 by Leanne G. Bloor, Renata Solarska, Krzysztof Bienkowski, Pawel J. Kulesza, Jan Augustynski, Mark D. Symes, Leroy Cronin
Solar-to-hydrogen photoelectrochemical cells (PECs) have been proposed as a means of converting sunlight into H2 fuel. However, in traditional PECs, the oxygen evolution reaction and the hydrogen evolution reaction are coupled, and so the rate of both of these is limited by the photocurrents that can be generated from the solar flux. This in turn leads to slow rates of gas evolution that favor crossover of H2 into the O2 stream and vice versa, even through ostensibly impermeable membranes such as Nafion. Herein, we show that the use of the electron-coupled-proton buffer (ECPB) H3PMo12O40 allows solar-driven O2 evolution from water to proceed at rates of over 1 mA cm–2 on WO3 photoanodes without the need for any additional electrochemical bias. No H2 is produced in the PEC, and instead H3PMo12O40 is reduced to H5PMo12O40. If the reduced ECPB is subjected to a separate electrochemical reoxidation, then H2 is produced with full overall Faradaic efficiency.