Band Edge Energy Tuning through Electronic Character Hybridization in Ternary Metal Vanadates

2021: Chemistry of Materials

Matthias H. Richter, Elizabeth A. Peterson, Lan Zhou, Aniketa A. Shinde, Paul F. Newhouse, Qimin Yan, Sean W. Fackler, Junko Yano, Jason K. Cooper, Kristin A. Persson, Jeffrey B. Neaton*, John M. Gregoire*

We report on the electrical properties of 2.0 eV bandgap (EG) CuInGaS2 (CIGS) solar absorbers integrated on SnO2:F (FTO) substrates and interfaced with CdS buffer layers for In the search for photoanode materials with band gaps suitable for utilization in solar fuel generation, approximately 1.2–2.8 eV, theory-guided experiments have identified a variety of materials that meet the band gap requirements and exhibit operational stability in harsh photoelectrochemical environments. In particular, M-V-O compounds (M is a transition metal or main group element) with VO4 structural motifs were predicted to show a remarkably wide range of band energetics (>3 eV variation in the energy of valence band maximum) and characteristics, depending on the M and crystal structure, which is beyond the extent of electronic structured tuning observed in previously studied families of metal oxide photoanodes. While this finding guided experimental discovery of new photoanode materials, explicit experimental verification of the theoretical prediction of the tunable electronic structure of these materials has been lacking to date. In this study, we use X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and Kelvin probe microscopy to experimentally investigate the electronic structure of M-V-O photoanodes, enabling comparison to theory on a common absolute energy scale. The results confirm the prediction that band edge energies of ternary vanadates vary significantly with metal cations. The valence band variation of approximately 1 eV observed here is larger than that reported in any analogous class of metal oxide semiconductors and demonstrates the promise of tuning the metal oxide electronic structure to enable efficient photoelectrocatalysis of the oxygen evolution reaction and beyond. Because midgap states can hamper realization of the high photovoltage sought by band edge tuning, we analyze the electronic contributions of oxygen vacancies for the representative photoanode V4Cr2O13 to guide future research on the development of high-efficiency metal oxide photoanodes for solar fuel technology.

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