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Charge Separation, Band-Bending, and Recombination in WO3 Photoanodes

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posted on 2019-09-03, 18:08 authored by Sacha Corby, Ernest Pastor, Yifan Dong, Xijia Zheng, Laia Francàs, Michael Sachs, Shababa Selim, Andreas Kafizas, Artem A. Bakulin, James R. Durrant
In metal oxide-based photoelectrochemical devices, the spatial separation of photogenerated electrons and holes is typically attributed to band-bending at the oxide/electrolyte interface. However, direct evidence of such band-bending impacting upon charge carrier lifetimes has been very limited to date. Herein we use ultrafast spectroscopy to track the rapid relaxation of holes in the space-charge layer and their recombination with trapped electrons in WO3 photoanodes. We observe that applied bias can significantly increase carrier lifetimes on all time scales from picoseconds to seconds and attribute this to enhanced band-bending correlated with changes in oxygen vacancy state occupancy. We show that analogous enhancements in carrier lifetimes can be obtained by changes in electrolyte composition, even in the absence of applied bias, highlighting routes to improve photoconversion yields/performance, through changes in band-bending. This study thus demonstrates the direct connection between carrier lifetime enhancement, increased band-bending, and oxygen vacancy defect state occupancy.