Particulate photocatalysts for overall water splitting

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The conversion of solar energy to chemical energy is a promising way of generating renewable energy. Hydrogen production by means of water splitting over semiconductor photocatalysts is a simple, cost-effective approach to large-scale solar hydrogen synthesis. Since the discovery of the Honda–Fujishima effect, considerable progress has been made in this field, and numerous photocatalytic materials and water-splitting systems have been developed. In this Review, we summarize existing water-splitting systems based on particulate photocatalysts, focusing on the main components: light-harvesting semiconductors and co-catalysts. The essential design principles of the materials employed for overall water-splitting systems based on one-step and two-step photoexcitation are also discussed, concentrating on three elementary processes: photoabsorption, charge transfer and surface catalytic reactions. Finally, we outline challenges and potential advances associated with solar water splitting by particulate photocatalysts for future commercial applications.

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Figure 1: Solar water splitting using a particulate photocatalyst.
Figure 2: Timeline showing the key developments in overall water splitting using particulate photocatalysts.
Figure 3: Kinetic control through the use of a co-catalyst and semiconductor in a one-step photoexcitation system.
Figure 4: Schematic energy diagrams for different types of photocatalytic overall water-splitting systems.
Figure 5: Kinetic control of the semiconductor and co-catalyst in a two-step photoexcitation system.
Figure 6: Relationship between the STH conversion efficiency and photon wavelengths for photocatalytic one-step overall water splitting.


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This work was primarily supported by the Artificial Photosynthesis Project of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and also received funding from a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) (No. 16H02417) and a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C) (No. 16K06862).

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Correspondence to Kazunari Domen.

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Chen, S., Takata, T. & Domen, K. Particulate photocatalysts for overall water splitting. Nat Rev Mater 2, 17050 (2017) doi:10.1038/natrevmats.2017.50

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