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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Nanoscale Confinement of Photo-Injected Electrons at Hybrid Interfaces


A prerequisite for advancing hybrid solar light harvesting systems is a comprehensive understanding of the spatiotemporal dynamics of photoinduced interfacial charge separation. Here, we demonstrate access to this transient charge redistribution for a model hybrid system of nanoporous zinc oxide (ZnO) and ruthenium bipyridyl chromophores. The site-selective probing of the molecular electron donor and semiconductor acceptor by time-resolved X-ray photoemission provides direct insight into the depth distribution of the photoinjected electrons and their interaction with the local band structure on a nanometer length scale. Our results show that these electrons remain localized within less than 6 nm from the interface, due to enhanced downward band bending by the photoinjected charge carriers. This spatial confinement suggests that light-induced charge generation and transport in nanoscale ZnO photocatalytic devices proceeds predominantly within the defect-rich surface region, which may lead to enhanced surface recombination and explain their lower performance compared to titanium dioxide (TiO2)-based systems.

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