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Nanostructured Hematite for Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting


Solar water splitting is an environmentally friendly reaction of producing hydrogen gas. Since Honda and Fujishima first demonstrated solar water splitting in 1972 by using semiconductor titanium dioxide (TiO2) as photoanode in a photoelectrochemical (PEC) cell, extensive efforts have been invested into improving the solar-to-hydrogen (STH) conversion efficiency and lower the production cost of photoelectrochemical devices. In the last few years, hematite (α-Fe2O3) nanostructures have been extensively studied as photoanodes for PEC water splitting. Although nanostructured hematite can improve its photoelectrochemical water splitting performance to some extent, by increasing active sites for water oxidation and shortening photogenerated hole path length to semiconductor/electrolyte interface, the photoactivity of pristine hematite nanostructures is still limited by a number of factors, such as poor electrical conductivities and slow oxygen evolution reaction kinetics. Previous studies have shown that tin (Sn) as an n-type dopant can substantially enhance the photoactivity of hematite photoanodes by modifying their optical and electrical properties. In this thesis, I will first demonstrate an unintentional Sn-doping method via high temperature annealing of hematite nanowires grown on fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO) substrate to enhance the donor density. In addition to introducing extrinsic dopants into semiconductors, the carrier densities of hematite can also be enhanced by creating intrinsic defects. Oxygen vacancies function as shallow donors for a number of hematite. In this regard, I have investigated the influence of oxygen content on thermal decomposition of FeOOH to induce oxygen vacancies in hematite. In the end, I have studied low temperature activation of hematite nanostructures.

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