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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Hybrid Composite Coatings for Durable and Efficient Solar Hydrogen Generation under Diverse Operating Conditions

  • Author(s): Walczak, KA;
  • Segev, G;
  • Larson, DM;
  • Beeman, JW;
  • Houle, FA;
  • Sharp, ID
  • et al.

Safe and practical solar-driven hydrogen generators must be capable of efficient and stable operation under diurnal cycling with full separation of gaseous H2 and O2 products. In this study, a novel architecture that fulfills all of these requirements is presented. The approach is inherently scalable and provides versatility for operation under diverse electrolyte and lighting conditions. The concept is validated using a 1 cm2 triple-junction photovoltaic cell with its illuminated photocathode protected by a composite coating comprising an organic encapsulant with an embedded catalytic support. The device is compatible with operation under conditions ranging from 1 m H2SO4 to 1 m KOH, enabling flexibility in selection of semiconductor, electrolyte, membrane, and catalyst. Stable operation at a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of >10% is demonstrated under continuous operation, as well as under diurnal light cycling for at least 4 d, with simulated sunlight. Operational characteristics are validated by extended time outdoor testing. A membrane ensures products are separated, with nonexplosive gas streams generated for both alkaline and acidic systems. Analysis of operational characteristics under different lighting conditions is enabled by comparison of a device model to experimental data.

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