Transparent conductive encapsulants (TCEs) are tested to protect semiconductor photoelectrodes for solar fuel generation. TCE electrochemical performance is characterized and TCEs successfully help retain photovoltage of protected photoelectrodes.
Utilizing sunlight to directly perform photoelectrochemical reactions is a promising route to renewable, net carbon-neutral fuels. However, a common problem with solar fuel production is semiconductor degradation in aqueous environments. An ideal protection layer should (1) prevent solution from reaching the semiconductor, (2) maintain charge transfer to and from solution, and (3) be transparent to light above the semiconductor band gap. While there have been substantial advances toward layers that meet these requirements, they are not easily adapted to new surfaces or new reactions, which can make protection difficult for newly developed photoabsorbers and (photo)electrochemical reaction pairings. In this work, we demonstrate the use of transparent conductive encapsulants (TCEs) to meet these requirements while also allowing for photoelectrode- and reaction-agnostic adaptability. TCEs are composed of an ethyl-vinyl acetate matrix with embedded conductive metal-coated microspheres that can be laminated to semiconductors. First, the electrochemical behavior of TCE-coated electrodes for the reduction of methyl viologen is characterized, demonstrating through-TCE electrical conduction. Then, photoelectrochemical measurements on TCE-protected semiconductors demonstrate the flexibility of this protection scheme. Finally, long-term photoelectrochemical measurements probe the efficacy of TCEs as protection layers. These findings demonstrate the potential of TCEs as adaptable protection layers in various photoelectrochemical applications.Zum Volltext