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Oxide heterointerfaces in assemblies for photoelectrochemical applications

English title Oxide heterointerfaces in assemblies for photoelectrochemical applications
Applicant Braun Artur
Number 133944
Funding scheme International short research visits
Research institution
Institution of higher education Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology - EMPA
Main discipline Physical Chemistry
Start/End 01.11.2010 - 31.01.2011
Approved amount 11'380.00
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All Disciplines (4)

Physical Chemistry
Material Sciences
Condensed Matter Physics
Inorganic Chemistry

Keywords (6)

solar; hydrogen; fuel; photoelectrochemistry; heterojunction; metaloxide

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary

I have visited the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at University of Hawaii at Manoa in order to collaborate with Dr. Eric Miller, Dr. Nicolas Gaillard and their Thin Film Lab Team. The objective of the collaboration was the synthesis and characterization of thin metal oxide films, in particular copper tungsten oxide films, which are promising electrode materials for solar photo-electrochemical water splitting (PEC). These films can be used as photo anodes that evolve oxygen during water splitting, while at the cathode side hydrogen is evolved. Basically this is a sustainable and "green" concept of solar fuel hydrogen generation. During my visit I have shared ceramic powder synthesis and processing expertise that I have gathered as scientist at the Laboratory for High Performance Ceramics at Empa in Dübendorf. Together with the thin film synthesis and characterisation expertise of my colleagues in Hawaii, we succeeded to make magnetron sputtered CuWO4-type films which are quite suitable for the aforementioned purpose. I performed there also X-ray diffraction on copper oxide electrodes. The collaboration is still ongoing and I schedule to apply synchrotron x-ray spectroscopy on our colleagues' samples for electronic structure and water splitting performance correlation at BESSY in Berlin.

During my 3 month visit in Hawaii I made also contact with Dr. Sam Wilson (Center for Microbial Oceanography Research and Education) who studies the hydrogen evolution of blue green algae in the ocean. We could arrange that his hydrogen sensing apparatus was used for our HNEI team. I am personally interested in blue green algae because they contain phycocyanin, and one of the projects in my research group at Empa - funded in part by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy - is the functionalization of ceramic PEC electrodes with this phycocyanin, which is a light harvesting protein that can act as antenna.

Another coincidential contact I made was with Prof. Murli Manghnani from the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics, who works on high pressure materials. One project in my research group at Empa deals with the influence of high pressure on the proton conductivity properties of ceramics for intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cell electrolytes (currently funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation).  Murli's team made for us high pressure optical Raman measurements, which help us to understand the proton-phonon interaction of our proton conductors.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
175249 Electrochemistry of the thylakoid membrane - metal oxide electrode assemblies 01.08.2017 International short research visits
147413 International Exploratory Workshop on Soft X-rays, Electrochemistry, and Energy Materials 01.05.2013 International Exploratory Workshops
149031 Production of Liquid Solar Fuels from CO2 and Water: Using Renewable Energy Resources 01.03.2014 South Africa
132126 Defects in the bulk and on surfaces and interfaces of metal oxides with photoelectrochemical properties: In-situ photoelectrochemical and resonant x-ray and electron spectroscopy studies 01.06.2011 Project funding
161673 International Exploratory Workshop on Photoelectrochemistry, Catalysis and X-ray spectroscopy 01.07.2015 International Exploratory Workshops
137868 Reaction-diffusion processes for the growth of patterned structures and architectures: A bottom-up approach for photoelectrochemical electrodes 01.03.2012 Project funding
121306 Fundamental Aspects of Photocatalysis and Photoelectrochemistry / Basic Research Instrumentation for Functional Characterization 01.07.2008 R'EQUIP


Metal oxide films and heterostructures with application to solar cells will be synthesized and subjected to photoelectrochemical analysis at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. Complementary activities for synthesis and characterization will be carried out at Empa in Switzerland and at the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley.The experimental data will be subject to search for structure-performance correlations with the aim to guide thin film and interface engineers in their development of solar cells and solar cell materials.