Scalable water splitting on particulate photocatalyst sheets with a solar-to-hydrogen energy conversion efficiency exceeding 1%


Photocatalytic water splitting using particulate semiconductors is a potentially scalable and economically feasible technology for converting solar energy into hydrogen1,2,3. Z-scheme systems based on two-step photoexcitation of a hydrogen evolution photocatalyst (HEP) and an oxygen evolution photocatalyst (OEP) are suited to harvesting of sunlight because semiconductors with either water reduction or oxidation activity can be applied to the water splitting reaction4,5. However, it is challenging to achieve efficient transfer of electrons between HEP and OEP particles6,7. Here, we present photocatalyst sheets based on La- and Rh-codoped SrTiO3 (SrTiO3:La, Rh; ref. 8) and Mo-doped BiVO4 (BiVO4:Mo) powders embedded into a gold (Au) layer. Enhancement of the electron relay by annealing and suppression of undesirable reactions through surface modification allow pure water (pH 6.8) splitting with a solar-to-hydrogen energy conversion efficiency of 1.1% and an apparent quantum yield of over 30% at 419 nm. The photocatalyst sheet design enables efficient and scalable water splitting using particulate semiconductors.

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Figure 1: SrTiO3:La, Rh/Au/BiVO4:Mo sheet prepared by particle transfer method.
Figure 2: Effect of reaction temperature on photocatalytic water splitting rate of the SrTiO3:La, Rh/Au/BiVO4:Mo sheet.
Figure 3: Printed photocatalyst sheet.


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This work was financially supported by the Artificial Photosynthesis Project of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), by Grants-in-Aids for Specially Promoted Research (No. 23000009) and for Young Scientists (A) (No. 15H05494), and the A3 Foresight Program of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). A part of this work was conducted at Research Hub for Advanced Nano Characterization, The University of Tokyo, with the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan. T.T. performed work at GREEN, NIMS supported through the Development of Environmental Technology using Nanotechnology from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). I.D.S. and Y.L. performed work at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a DOE Energy Innovation Hub, supported through the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy under Award Number DE-SC0004993.

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Q.W., T.H., Y.L. and K.D. conceived the photocatalyst sheet design. Q.W. prepared SrTiO3:La, Rh and the photocatalyst sheet, conducted XRD, DRS, XPS and SEM characterizations and the water splitting reactions. T.H. and K.D. supervised the experimental work. Q.J. prepared the BiVO4:Mo particles. H.T. prepared the printed photocatalyst sheets. M.Z. and C.W. performed the photoelectrochemical measurements. Q.W., Z.P. and T.T. conducted the surface modification with a-TiO2. M.N. and N.S. conducted the SEM–EDX elemental mapping measurements. Q.W., Y.L. and I.D.S. carried out the electron beam evaporation. Q.W., T.H., Q.J., H.T., Y.L., A.K., T.Y. and K.D. discussed the results. Q.W. and T.H. wrote the manuscript with contributions from the other co-authors.

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Correspondence to Kazunari Domen.

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Wang, Q., Hisatomi, T., Jia, Q. et al. Scalable water splitting on particulate photocatalyst sheets with a solar-to-hydrogen energy conversion efficiency exceeding 1%. Nature Mater 15, 611–615 (2016).

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