Refined materials provide booster shot for solar energy conversion

November 18, 2013

If you want to get the most out of the sun, you have to improve the performance of the materials used.

An interdisciplinary team of Engineering at Illinois researchers has set its sights on improving the materials that make solar energy conversion/photocatalysis possible. Together, they have developed a new form of high-performance solar photocatalyst based on the combination of the TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and other "metallic" oxides that greatly enhance the visible light absorption and promote more efficient utilization of the solar spectrum for energy applications.

"This is a fundamentally new way of approaching these matters," explained Lane Martin, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Illinois. "Our research group incorporatesaspects of condensed matter physics, semiconductor device engineering, and photochemistry to make new performance possible. From these materials we can imagine carbon-neutral energy production of clean-burning fuels, waste water purification and remediation, and much more.

"As a follow-up to our prior work, we expanded our discovery of new strongly absorbing energy materials," Martin added. "The overall concept is that we have developed a new form of high-performance solar photocatalyst based on the combination of the TiO2 and 'metallic' oxides." The group's paper "Enhanced photoelectrochemical activity in all-oxide heterojunction devices based on correlated 'metallic' oxides," appears in the journal, Advanced Materials (Volume 25, Issue 43, pages 6201-6206). The researchers also have a patent application pending for this work.

According to Martin the research paper addresses the most pressing limiting factor of these materials for applications - their poor absorption of light.

"This paper covers several new variations where we integrate chemically compatible correlated 'metallic' oxides with the model n-type, wide band gap oxide semiconductor TiO2 to produce high-performance photocatalytic heterojunctions. These composite structures operate on the principle of hot carrier injection from the 'metallic' oxide into the TiO2. "

These effects are made possible by harnessing the diverse range of correlated electron physics of common metallic oxide materials including n-type LaNiO3 (lanthanum nickelate), SrRuO3 (strontium ruthenate), and SrVO3 (strontium vanadate) and p-type La0.5Sr0.5CoO3 (lanthanum strontium cobaltite) and La0.7Sr0.3MnO3 (lanthanum strontium manganite). These materials have been extensively explored (individually) for their novel electronic transport, magnetic properties, and other exotic physical phenomena and are widely utilized as epitaxial bottom electrodes in ferroic heterostructures.

Martin noted that one of the new materials studied (La 0.5Sr0.5CoO3-based devices) demonstrated photocatalytic activities that are 27-, 6.2-, and 3-times larger than that for a single-layer TiO2 film, nanopowder Degussa P25 samples, and the prior report of devices based on SrRuO3, respectively.
-end-


University of Illinois College of Engineering

Related Engineering Articles from Brightsurf:

Re-engineering antibodies for COVID-19
Catholic University of America researcher uses 'in silico' analysis to fast-track passive immunity

Next frontier in bacterial engineering
A new technique overcomes a serious hurdle in the field of bacterial design and engineering.

COVID-19 and the role of tissue engineering
Tissue engineering has a unique set of tools and technologies for developing preventive strategies, diagnostics, and treatments that can play an important role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineering the meniscus
Damage to the meniscus is common, but there remains an unmet need for improved restorative therapies that can overcome poor healing in the avascular regions.

Artificially engineering the intestine
Short bowel syndrome is a debilitating condition with few treatment options, and these treatments have limited efficacy.

Reverse engineering the fireworks of life
An interdisciplinary team of Princeton researchers has successfully reverse engineered the components and sequence of events that lead to microtubule branching.

New method for engineering metabolic pathways
Two approaches provide a faster way to create enzymes and analyze their reactions, leading to the design of more complex molecules.

Engineering for high-speed devices
A research team from the University of Delaware has developed cutting-edge technology for photonics devices that could enable faster communications between phones and computers.

Breakthrough in blood vessel engineering
Growing functional blood vessel networks is no easy task. Previously, other groups have made networks that span millimeters in size.

Next-gen batteries possible with new engineering approach
Dramatically longer-lasting, faster-charging and safer lithium metal batteries may be possible, according to Penn State research, recently published in Nature Energy.

Read More: Engineering News and Engineering Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.