Seungtaeg Oh, Hakhyeon Song, and Jihun Oh*
Nano Lett. 2017
First published: 11 August 2017
Photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells have attracted much attention as a viable route for storing solar energy and producing value-added chemicals and fuels. However, the competition between light absorption and electrocatalysis at a restrained cocatalyst area on conventional planar-type photoelectrodes could limit their conversion efficiency. Here, we demonstrate a new monolithic photoelectrode architecture that eliminate the optical-electrochemical coupling by forming locally nanostructured cocatalysts on a photoelectrode. As a model study, Ni inverse opal (IO), an ordered threedimensional porous nanostructure, was used as a surface-area-controlled electrocatalyst locally formed on Si photoanodes. The optical−electrochemical decoupling of our monolithic photoanodes significantly enhances the PEC performance for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) by increasing light absorption and by providing more electrochemically active sites. Our Si photoanode with local Ni IOs maintains an identical photolimiting current density but reduces the overpotential by about 120 mV compared to a Si photoanode with planar Ni cocatalysts with the same footprint under 1 sun illumination. Finally, a highly efficient Si photoanode with an onset potential of 0.94 V vs reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE) and a photocurrent density of 31.2 mA/cm2 at 1.23 V vs RHE in 1 M KOH under 1 sun illumination is achieved with local NiFe alloy IOs.