Achieving high current densities while maintaining high energy conversion efficiency is one of the main challenges for enhancing the competitiveness of photo-electrochemical devices. We describe a concept that allows this challenge to be overcome by operating under concentrated solar irradiation (up to 474 kW m−2), using thermal integration, mass transport optimization and a close electronic integration between the photoabsorber and electrocatalyst. We quantify the increase in the theoretical maximum efficiencies resulting from thermal integration, and experimentally validate the concept using a III–V-based photoabsorber and IrRuOx–Pt-based electrocatalysts. We reach current densities higher than 0.88 A cm−2 at calculated solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiencies above 15%. Device performance, dynamic response and stability are investigated, demonstrating the ability to produce hydrogen stably under varying conditions for more than two hours. The current density and output power (27 W) achieved provide a pathway for device scalability aimed towards the large-scale deployment of photo-electrochemical hydrogen production.
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This material is based on work performed with financial support from the Nano-Tera.ch initiative, as part of the SHINE project (grant number 145936), and a Starting Grant of the Swiss National Science Foundation, as part of the SCOUTS project (grant number 155876). We thank J.-W. Schüttauf and S. Essig from the Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique for useful input and help with the I–V characterizations of the III–V solar cells. We thank G. Corradini from the Center of MicroNanoTechnology at the EPFL for discussions and help with the preparation of the PV component, and C. Suter from the LRESE at the EPFL for discussions and help with irradiation characterizations of the HFSS. We thank I. Samim for deploying the PEC demonstration comparison plot in the form of a dynamic plotting tool available at http://specdc.epfl.ch/.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Tembhurne, S., Nandjou, F. & Haussener, S. A thermally synergistic photo-electrochemical hydrogen generator operating under concentrated solar irradiation. Nat Energy 4, 399–407 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-019-0373-7
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