Interplay of oxygen-evolution kinetics and photovoltaic power curves on the construction of artificial leaves
Author(s)Surendranath, Yogesh; Bediako, Daniel Kwabena; Nocera, Daniel G.
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An artificial leaf can perform direct solar-to-fuels conversion. The construction of an efficient artificial leaf or other photovoltaic (PV)-photoelectrochemical device requires that the power curve of the PV material and load curve of water splitting, composed of the catalyst Tafel behavior and cell resistances, be well-matched near the thermodynamic potential for water splitting. For such a condition, we show here that the current density-voltage characteristic of the catalyst is a key determinant of the solar-to-fuels efficiency (SFE). Oxidic Co and Ni borate (Co-B[subscript i] and Ni-B[subscript i]) thin films electrodeposited from solution yield oxygen-evolving catalysts with Tafel slopes of 52 mV/decade and 30 mV/decade, respectively. The consequence of the disparate Tafel behavior on the SFE is modeled using the idealized behavior of a triple-junction Si PV cell. For PV cells exhibiting similar solar power-conversion efficiencies, those displaying low open circuit voltages are better matched to catalysts with low Tafel slopes and high exchange current densities. In contrast, PV cells possessing high open circuit voltages are largely insensitive to the catalyst’s current density-voltage characteristics but sacrifice overall SFE because of less efficient utilization of the solar spectrum. The analysis presented herein highlights the importance of matching the electrochemical load of water-splitting to the onset of maximum current of the PV component, drawing a clear link between the kinetic profile of the water-splitting catalyst and the SFE efficiency of devices such as the artificial leaf.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Chemistry
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
Surendranath, Y., D. K. Bediako, and D. G. Nocera. “Interplay of Oxygen-evolution Kinetics and Photovoltaic Power Curves on the Construction of Artificial Leaves.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109.39 (2012): 15617–15621.
Final published version