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A metal-free polymeric photocatalyst for hydrogen production from water under visible light


The production of hydrogen from water using a catalyst and solar energy is an ideal future energy source, independent of fossil reserves. For an economical use of water and solar energy, catalysts that are sufficiently efficient, stable, inexpensive and capable of harvesting light are required. Here, we show that an abundant material, polymeric carbon nitride, can produce hydrogen from water under visible-light irradiation in the presence of a sacrificial donor. Contrary to other conducting polymer semiconductors, carbon nitride is chemically and thermally stable and does not rely on complicated device manufacturing. The results represent an important first step towards photosynthesis in general where artificial conjugated polymer semiconductors can be used as energy transducers.

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Figure 1: Crystal structure and optical properties of graphitic carbon nitride.
Figure 2: Electronic structure of polymeric melon.
Figure 3: Stable hydrogen evolution from water by g-C3N4.
Figure 4: Wavelength-dependent hydrogen evolution from water by g-C3N4.
Figure 5: Oxygen evolution from water by g-C3N4.


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This work was supported by the Max Planck Society within the framework of the project ENERCHEM, and the Research and Development in a New Interdisciplinary Field Based on Nanotechnology and Materials Science programs of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan. X.W. is grateful for the financial support from the National Basic Research Program of China (973 program, Grant No. 2007CB613306), NSFC (Grant Nos. 20537010 and 20603007), the New Century Excellent Talents in University of China (NCET-07-0192) and the AvH Foundation. K.M. gratefully acknowledges the support of a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Fellowship. The authors thank J. Kubota, T. Hisatomi and K. Kamata (Department of Chemical System Engineering, The University of Tokyo) for assistance in the revision of this article.

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Correspondence to Xinchen Wang or Kazunari Domen.

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Wang, X., Maeda, K., Thomas, A. et al. A metal-free polymeric photocatalyst for hydrogen production from water under visible light. Nature Mater 8, 76–80 (2009).

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