High Efficiency Si Photocathode Protected by Multifunctional GaN Nanostructures
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Photoelectrochemical water splitting is a clean and environmentally friendly method for solar hydrogen generation. Its practical application, however, has been limited by the poor stability of semiconductor photoelectrodes. In this work, we demonstrate the use of GaN nanostructures as a multifunctional protection layer for an otherwise unstable, low-performance photocathode. The direct integration of GaN nanostructures on n+-p Si wafer not only protects Si surface from corrosion but also significantly reduces the charge carrier transfer resistance at the semiconductor/liquid junction, leading to long-term stability (>100 h) at a large current density (>35 mA/cm2) under 1 sun illumination. The measured applied bias photon-to-current efficiency of 10.5% is among the highest values ever reported for a Si photocathode. Given that both Si and GaN are already widely produced in industry, our studies offer a viable path for achieving high-efficiency and highly stable semiconductor photoelectrodes for solar water splitting with proven manufacturability and scalability.
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