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Electrocatalyst for solar water splitting

Research Achievements

Electrocatalyst for solar water splitting

IGERT trainee Diane Zhong discovered an improved nanostructured electrocatalyst for solar water splitting applications, using sunlight to generate oxygen and hydrogen fuel from water. She found that deposition of a cobalt catalyst layer over a high-surface-area iron oxide photoanode causes a >350 mV cathodic shift in the onset potential for photoelectrochemical water oxidation relative to uncovered iron oxide. This reduction in external bias needed to drive overall water splitting greatly increases the efficiency. This discovery led to new collaborations with an electrochemical engineer and an electronic structure theorist to elucidate the mechanism for this advance. These results demonstrate modification of this prototypical material with a competent electrocatalyst is a general strategy that may have important ramifications for solar hydrogen production.