Article

Printed assemblies of GaAs photoelectrodes with decoupled optical and reactive interfaces for unassisted solar water splitting

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Abstract

Despite their excellent photophysical properties and record-high solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency, the high cost and limited stability of III–V compound semiconductors prohibit their practical application in solar-driven photoelectrochemical water splitting. Here we present a strategy for III–V photocatalysis that can circumvent these difficulties via printed assemblies of epitaxially grown compound semiconductors. A thin film stack of GaAs-based epitaxial materials is released from the growth wafer and printed onto a non-native transparent substrate to form an integrated photocatalytic electrode for solar hydrogen generation. The heterogeneously integrated electrode configuration together with specialized epitaxial design serve to decouple the material interfaces for illumination and electrocatalysis. Subsequently, this allows independent control and optimization of light absorption, carrier transport, charge transfer, and material stability. Using this approach, we construct a series-connected wireless tandem system of GaAs photoelectrodes and demonstrate 13.1% solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of unassisted-mode water splitting.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA

    • Dongseok Kang
    • , Haneol Lim
    • , Huandong Chen
    • , Yuzhou Xi
    • , Boju Gai
    •  & Jongseung Yoon
  2. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colorado 80401, USA

    • James L. Young
    • , Walter E. Klein
    •  & Todd G. Deutsch
  3. Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089, USA

    • Jongseung Yoon

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Contributions

J.Y. and D.K. conceived the idea and designed the experiment. D.K., J.L.Y., H.L., W.E.K., H.C., Y.X., B.G., T.G.D. and J.Y. performed the experiments. D.K., J.L.Y., H.L., W.E.K., H.C., T.G.D. and J.Y. analysed the data. D.K., J.L.Y., W.E.K., T.G.D. and J.Y. wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jongseung Yoon.

Supplementary information

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Figures 1–14, Supplementary Tables 1–3.

Videos

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Video 1

    Unassisted solar water splitting with a wireless, tandem system of GaAs photoelectrodes. This video shows unassisted water splitting using two series-connected GaAs photoelectrodes in 0.5M H2SO4 aqueous solution under simulated AM1.5G solar illumination. While the light is turned on from the back side, oxygen and hydrogen gases are produced on the front side (the catalytic interface) of the photoanode (left) and the photocathode (right), respectively.