Organic semiconductors hold promise to enable scalable, low-cost and high-performance artificial photosynthesis. However, the performance of systems based on organic semiconductors for light-driven water oxidation have remained poor compared with inorganic semiconductors. Herein, we demonstrate an all-polymer bulk heterojunction organic semiconductor photoanode for solar water oxidation. By engineering the photoanode interlayers we gain important insights into critical factors (surface roughness and charge extraction efficiency) to increase the operational stability, which reaches above 3 h with a 1-Sun photocurrent density, Jph, of >3 mA cm−2 at 1.23 V versus the reversible hydrogen electrode for the sacrificial oxidation of Na2SO3 at pH 9. Optimizing the coupling to an oxygen evolution catalyst yields O2 production with Jph > 2 mA cm−2 at 1.23 V versus the reversible hydrogen electrode (100% Faradaic efficiency and a quantum efficiency up to 27% with 610 nm illumination), demonstrating improved stability (≥1 mA cm−2 for over 30 min of continuous operation) compared with previous organic photoanodes.
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We acknowledge support from the Swiss Competence Centre for Energy Research (SCCER Heat and Electricity Storage, contract number CTI 1155002545). N.G. and Y.L. thank the Swiss National Foundation (SNF) for funding under an Ambizione Energy Grant (PZENP2_166871). J.-H.Y. thanks a research agreement between EPFL and the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Catalysis thanks Ludmilla Steier and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Cho, HH., Yao, L., Yum, JH. et al. A semiconducting polymer bulk heterojunction photoanode for solar water oxidation. Nat Catal 4, 431–438 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41929-021-00617-x