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ZnO/CuO Heterojunction Branched Nanowires for Photoelectrochemical Hydrogen Generation

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journal contribution
posted on 23.12.2013, 00:00 by Alireza Kargar, Yi Jing, Sung Joo Kim, Conor T. Riley, Xiaoqing Pan, Deli Wang
We report a facile and large-scale fabrication of three-dimensional (3D) ZnO/CuO heterojunction branched nanowires (b-NWs) and their application as photocathodes for photoelectrochemical (PEC) solar hydrogen production in a neutral medium. Using simple, cost-effective thermal oxidation and hydrothermal growth methods, ZnO/CuO b-NWs are grown on copper film or mesh substrates with various ZnO and CuO NWs sizes and densities. The ZnO/CuO b-NWs are characterized in detail using high-resolution scanning and transmission electron microscopies exhibiting single-crystalline defect-free b-NWs with smooth and clean surfaces. The correlation between electrode currents and different NWs sizes and densities are studied in which b-NWs with longer and denser CuO NW cores show higher photocathodic current due to enhanced reaction surface area. The ZnO/CuO b-NW photoelectrodes exhibit broadband photoresponse from UV to near IR region, and higher photocathodic current than the ZnO-coated CuO (core/shell) NWs due to improved surface area and enhanced gas evolution. Significant improvement in the photocathodic current is observed when ZnO/CuO b-NWs are grown on copper mesh compared to copper film. The achieved results offer very useful guidelines in designing b-NWs mesh photoelectrodes for high-efficiency, low-cost, and flexible PEC cells using cheap, earth-abundant materials for clean solar hydrogen generation at large scales.