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Scientists Use Semiconducting Polymer-based Artificial Leaf to Generate Solar Fuel

Published on 2021-06-28. Edited By : SpecialChem

TAGS:  Electrical & Electronics     Nanotechnologies     Metal Replacement   

artificial-leaf-semiconducting-polymers EPFL scientists have generated oxygen from sunlight, water and semiconducting polymers using an artificial leaf. They present a promising way towards economical and scalable solar fuel production.

Prof. Kevin Sivula and his co-workers in the Laboratory for Molecular Engineering of Optoelectronic Nanomaterials (LIMNO) at EPFL describe a mixture of semiconducting polymers, commonly known as plastic electronics, that demonstrates highly efficient solar-driven water oxidation (H2O → O2).

New Materials with Tunable Properties

Compared to previously-reported systems, which employ inorganic materials such as metal oxides or silicon and have not met the performance and cost requirements for industrialization, the polymeric materials reported in this new work have molecularly tunable properties, and are solution-processable at low temperature, allowing large scale device fabrication at low manufacturing cost.

The EPFL team’s breakthrough was realized by tuning the properties of the polymers to match the requirements of the water oxidation reaction and by assembling them into what is called “a bulk heterojunction” (BHJ) blend that further improves the efficiency of the solar-driven catalytic reaction.

Better Performance with Improved System

By also optimizing the conduction of the electronic charges in the device by using carefully engineered interfaces, they realized the first demonstration of a water oxidizing “photo-anode” based on a BHJ polymer blend that exhibits a benchmark performance to date - performing two orders of magnitude better than previous organic-based devices. Moreover, the team identified key factors that influence the robust performance of O2 production, which will help define paths forward to further improve the performance.

By virtue of the potential of this approach, the system developed by Prof. Kevin Sivula and colleagues could substantially contribute to advancing the field of polymer-based electronics and establishing a promising route towards economical, efficient, and scalable solar fuel production by artificial photosynthesis.

Source: EPFL
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