Atomic Layer Deposition and Anodic Oxidation: A Good Tool Combination to Build Nanostructured Electrodes for Energy Applications
Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells offer significant advantages due to ethanol non-toxicity and renewability and its high power density. TiO2 have been successfully used as replacement of C as catalyst support because it exhibits a good chemical stability and it can enhance the activity of the catalyst. After a brief reminding on the TiO2-nt fabrication and properties, the ALD of Pd nanoparticles into TiO2-nt array will be presented. The electrochemical activity toward ethanol oxidation has been tested in alkaline medium. Although a high and stable electroactivity has been measured further improvements such as annealing of the TiO2-nt and ALD of SnO2 onto the TiO2-nt have been proposed. As seen on Fig. 1a, the electrochemical response is at its highest when the tubes have been annealed and covered by SnO2.
A 3D nano-architectured composite negative electrode has been fabricated in order to be used in microbatterie. It consists of TiO2-nt coated by a thin SnO2 film grown by ALD. TiO2-nt are known to exhibits very good insertion properties and the SnO2 coating that displays a high lithium insertion capability (max. theoretical capacity of 720 µAh/cm2·µm) is used to enlarge the capacity of the electrode. Such composite 3D structure increases therefore the active area, improves the kinetics of the system, facilitates the ion exchange at the electrode/electrolyte interface and, better accommodates the volume expansion induced by the Li insertion within the LixSn alloy. The ALD of SnO2 will be described in details. The influence of various parameters such as precursor nature, exposure sequence as well as reaction temperature on the deposit morphology, chemistry and crystalline structure will be presented. The electrochemical performances of such systems have been tested as function of the SnO2 film thickness and after thermal treatments that change the crystalline structure of the electrodes. The results show that TiO2/SnO2 delivers a promising capacity (~150 µAh/cm2) which is better than bare TiO2-nt (Fig. 1b). It demonstrated then that such 3D nano-architectured composite electrode opens valuable perspectives for microbatteries design.
The last example consists of producing a nanostructured photocathode for water splitting in which the photogeneration and transport of the charge carriers do not occur in the same material. In order to create tailored 3D nanostructures, p-NiO and i-Sb2S3 thin films have been successively grown into nanoporous alumina by ALD (Fig. 1c). The photocathode composition, structure and geometry are well controlled. Then the optical and photoelectrochemical properties have been investigated and optimized using cyclic voltammetry in the dark and under illumination as well as UV-visible absorption spectroscopy. It has been sought to uncover trends in the photoelectrochemical activity of the system (photocurrent density and photovoltage) and rationalize them in terms of optical and electrical functions.
 H. Masuda, K. Fukuda, Science, 268, 1466 (1995)