A research paper from the Wei group has been published in Energy & Environmental Science–the top leading journal in the energy field with a 2018 impact factor of 33.250 and five-year impact factor of 32.826. The article titled “Modulating Multi-Hole Reaction Pathways for Photoelectrochemical Water Oxidation on Gold Nanocatalysts” reports a discovery that catechol molecules on Au/TiO2 heterostructures are able to directly trap and stabilize visible-light-generated hot holes on Au under steady-state reaction conditions (t ~ms–s). Those long-lived hot holes are further found to create a new reaction pathway in which the catechol-trapped holes cooperate with the newly generated holes on Au. The new mechanism boosted photoelectrochemical water oxidation on Au by one order of magnitude. Our study provides a molecular level understanding of the role of photo-generated hot holes in facilitating water oxidation, illustrating a strategy to assemble metal nanoparticles, semiconductors, and molecules to effectively separate charge carriers and harvest hot holes for driving photochemical reactions.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, UF Graduate School Fellowship, Department of Energy Science Graduate Student award, Ann Stasch Summer Fellowship, Vala Research Excellence Award, and College of Liberal Art and Science (CLAS) Dissertation Fellowship funded by the Charles Vincent and Heidi Cole McLaughlin Endowment.