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Title: Studies of novel photoanodic materials for solar water splitting
Author: McInnes, Andrew D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 4912
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2017
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Anthropogenic climate change presents an unrivalled threat to environmental stability and the prosperity of future generations. Utilising abundant, renewable resources in energy generation and storage will be essential to halt climate change and its effects. Solar water splitting is an excellent tool in the renewable energy arsenal for countering climate change, as it utilises both sunlight and water, two of the most abundant resources available on earth. Furthermore, the direct formation of a chemical fuel, hydrogen, is thought to be more practical for storing in large quantities than electricity. Work in this thesis covers the investigation of a variety of materials, fabricated by aerosol assisted chemical vapour deposition (AACVD), for their ability to carry out photoelectrochemical water splitting. In one project, thin films of Bi2Ti2O7 (BTO), specifically of the pyrochlore crystal structure, are fabricated by AACVD and analysed for their photoelectrochemical properties. The resulting thin films are found to be phase pure with a band gap of 2.88 eV, which is 0.32 eV smaller than TiO2. Efforts to dope the BTO thin films are further investigated through the addition of iron. Significant modification to the band gap is observed, leading to a confirmed pyrochlore thin film exhibiting a band gap of 2.5 eV, a reduction of 0.38 eV from undoped BTO. The resulting thin film had a photocurrent 5 times higher than that of undoped BTO. Finally, efforts to fabricate Fe2Ti2O7 are outlined. It is discovered that a stable phase of Fe2TiO5 is preferentially formed over the pyrochlore phase, even with dramatic modification to the deposition parameters and precursor stoichiometry. The high stability of this phase, coupled with the limiting features of the glass substrates, highlights the challenges with forming certain pyrochlore thin films. In a second project, the effect of depositing titanium nanoclusters onto the surface of bismuth vanadate is investigated. Nanoclusters are of huge interest because their properties lie between those of atoms and bulk materials. Additionally, nanoscale clusters can be fabricated with incredible precision, allowing one to select discrete diameter particles for deposition on surfaces. Ti nanoclusters over a range of sizes are deposited onto BiVO4 photoanodes. It is discovered that the deposition of ultralow loadings of Ti2000 clusters results in an 80 % enhancement in the photocurrent of the BiVO4 substrates. Further experimentation highlights that the photocurrent enhancement is linked to the size of the nanocluster and the density of the clusters on the surface. A mechanism is outlined, whereby the Ti nanoclusters partially reduce the surface of the BiVO4, leading to enhanced electron transport within the thin films due to the presence of oxygen vacancies. In a final project, polycrystalline InN, GaN and systematically controlled InxGa1-xN composite thin films are fabricated on FTO glass by a facile, low-cost and scalable aerosol assisted chemical vapor deposition technique. Variation of the indium content in the composite films leads to a dramatic shift in the optical absorbance properties, which correlates with the band edges shifting between those of GaN to InN. Moreover, the photoelectrochemical properties are shown to vary with indium content, with the 50 % indium composite having an external quantum efficiency of around 8 %. Whilst the overall photocurrent is found to be low, the photocurrent stability is shown to be excellent, with little degradation seen over 1 hour. Subsequent attempts to modify the morphology by conducting vertical-AACVD are also outlined. Thin films fabricated using vertical-AACVD are found to grow via a different mechanism, leading to undesired split phase growth, where two different compositions form on the same substrate.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Solar water splitting ; Semiconductors ; Photoanodes ; Thin films ; AACVD ; Nanoclusters ; Nitrides