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Locally Engineering and Interrogating the Photoelectrochemical Behavior of Defects in Transition Metal Dichalcogenides

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posted on 22.07.2020 by Joshua W. Hill, Zhuangen Fu, Jifa Tian, Caleb M. Hill
Transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are attractive materials for a variety of applications in solar energy conversion and electrocatalysis, due to their favorable optical and electrical properties and their unique two-dimensional structures which facilitate the fabrication of wide-area, ultrathin layers. Unfortunately, the basal planes which make up the majority of these materials are relatively inert, and thus a great deal of effort has been directed to engineering favorable, catalytically active defects into these materials. Here, we demonstrate how probe-based electrochemical techniques can be employed as multifunctional tools for locally modifying TMD materials and probing the electrochemical behavior of the resulting defects. Scanning Electrochemical Cell Microscopy (SECCM) was employed to locally anodize exfoliated p-type WSe2 nanosheets, creating hole-like defects within individual basal planes in a highly controllable fashion. Photoelectrochemical SECCM imaging was then employed to characterize the chemical behavior of these engineered defects, revealing significantly enhanced activity toward the Hydrogen Evolution Reaction (HER). Atomic force microscopy studies are presented which suggest these enhancements result from an increased density of monolayer-high step features within the anodized defects. Analysis of the SECCM data in the context of finite element simulations revealed that these enhancements increased with increasing anodization time, with local kinetic rates over 2 orders of magnitude higher than unaltered basal planes.

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