Water Splitting

A close look at the catalyst interface

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Science  02 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6256, pp. 53-54
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6256.53-d

The light-driven splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen is a widely studied approach toward storing solar energy for use at night and on cloudy days. Hill et al. constructed cells in which n-doped silicon absorbed the light and a cobalt catalyst on top helped accelerate the oxygen-generating half of the reaction. Their goal was to study how the catalyst/silicon interface influenced the cell's photovoltage. By probing the system in both solution and solid-state environments, they discerned a crucial contribution from an SiOx oxide layer between the silicon and cobalt. Noncontinuous cobalt coverage also contributed to an enhanced photovoltage. The results could help guide optimization of this and similar device designs.

Nat. Mater. 10.1038/nmat4408 (2015).

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