Controlled Design of Functional Nano-Coatings: Reduction of Loss Mechanisms in Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting

Efficient water splitting with photoelectrodes requires highly performing and stable photoactive materials. Since there is no material known which fulfills all these requirements because of various loss mechanisms, we present a strategy for efficiency enhancement of photoanodes via deposition of functional coatings in the nanometer range. Origins of performance losses in particle-based oxynitride photoanodes were identified and specifically designed coatings were deposited to address each loss mechanism individually. Amorphous TiO2 located at interparticle boundaries enables high electron conductivity. A thin layer of amorphous Ta2O5 can be used as protection layer for photoanodes because of its hole conductivity and thermal and chemical stability. An amorphous layer of NiOx and Co­(OH)2 reduces photocorrosion or increases water oxidation kinetics because they act as a hole-capture material or water oxidation catalyst, respectively. Crystalline CoOx nanoparticles increase photocurrent and reduce the onset potential due to enhanced charge separation. The combination of all coatings deposited by a scalable, mild, and reproducible step-by-step approach leads to high-performance oxynitride-based photoanodes providing a maximum photocurrent of 2.52 mA/cm2 at 1.23 VRHE under AM1.5G illumination.