Highly efficient photoleletrochemical water splitting by optical, electrical and catalysis concurrent management

  • Hui-Chun Fu

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


One way of harnessing and storing our most abundant and renewable energy source, sunlight, is by utilizing it to split water for the hydrogen generation as a storable form of fuel. Si, the most investigated material for solar-to-hydrogen technology has great potential as the single photoelectrode. While some success has been achieved in Si-Based photoelectrochemical (PEC) systems, they suffer from low efficiency and short longevity. Moreover, in order for hydrogen to be commercially viable, the existing challenges of electrical, optical, and catalysis management must be addressed concurrently. Herein, we work on the simultaneous improvement in light harvesting, charge carrier separation/transfer, and catalysis management of Si-based photocathodes, achieving best-in-class efficiency with stable electrochemical performance. By decoupling the light harvesting side from the electrocatalytic surface we nullify parasitic light absorption. We developed a Si bifacial (SiBF) PEC photocathode to absorb light on both sides of PEC devices, which exhibits a current density of 39.01 mA/cm2. Unlike conventional monofacial PEC cells, our bifacial design demonstrates excellent omnidirectional light harvesting capability. Furthermore, back buried junction photoelectrochemical (BBJ-PEC) cells were fabricated that can realize efficient decoupling of photon. This scheme enables maximum light-harvesting without any metal contact, which prevents the shadow effect during the water splitting reaction. The highest hydrogen evolution current density (41.76 mA/cm2) was demonstrated based on a single BBJ-PEC device. Additionally, wireless water splitting can be achieved when three BBJ-PEC cells were connected in series. The efficient PEC cell design described herein demonstrates promising performance, taking us a step closer to real-world solar-to-hydrogen production.
Date of AwardFeb 2019
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorJr-Hau He (Supervisor)


  • Photoelectrochemical
  • water splitting
  • solar cell
  • Hydrogen
  • Catalyst
  • Photoelectrode

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