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Tailored Coupling of Biomineralized CdS Quantum Dots to rGO to Realize Ambient Aqueous Synthesis of a High-Performance Hydrogen Evolution Photocatalyst

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journal contribution
posted on 14.09.2020, 14:52 by John Sakizadeh, Joseph P. Cline, Mark A. Snyder, Christopher J. Kiely, Steven McIntosh
Nanocomposite photocatalysts offer a promising route to efficient and clean hydrogen production. However, the multistep, high-temperature, solvent-based syntheses typically utilized to prepare these photocatalysts can limit their scalability and sustainability. Biosynthetic routes to produce functional nanomaterials occur at room temperature and in aqueous conditions, but typically do not produce high-performance materials. We have developed a method to produce a highly efficient hydrogen evolution photocatalyst consisting of CdS quantum dots (QDs) supported on reduced graphene oxide (rGO) via enzyme-based syntheses combined with tuned ligand exchange-mediated self-assembly. All preparation steps are carried out in an aqueous environment at ambient temperature. Size-controlled CdS QDs and rGO are prepared through enzyme-mediated turnover of l-cysteine to HS in aqueous solutions of Cd-acetate and graphene oxide, respectively. Exchange of cysteamine for the native l-cysteine ligand capping the CdS QDs drives self-assembly of the now positively charged cysteamine-capped CdS (CdS/CA) onto negatively charged rGO. The use of this short linker molecule additionally enables efficient charge transfer from CdS to rGO, increasing exciton lifetime and, subsequently, photocatalytic activity. The visible-light hydrogen evolution rate of the resulting CdS/CA/rGO photocatalyst is 3300 μmol h–1 g–1. This represents, to our knowledge, one of the highest reported rates for a CdS/rGO nanocomposite photocatalyst, irrespective of the synthesis method.