Wide Bandgap Copper Indium Gallium Disulfide Thin Film Materials for Photoelectrochemical Hydrogen Production

Tuesday, October 13, 2015: 16:20
104-B (Phoenix Convention Center)
N. Gaillard (University of Hawaii)
Photoelectrochemistry (PEC) is one of the most efficient methods to produce alternative fuels, although the efficiency, cost, and durability of lab-scale systems are currently not at the level required to make this technology economically feasible. The chalcopyrite material class provides exceptional candidates to meet the requirements identified for cheap, sustainable solar fuels production. As we recently reported, co-evaporated 1.7 eV CuGaSe2 offers very high-saturated photocurrent densities (>15 mA.cm-­2), long durability (>400 hours) and high Faradaic efficiency (>85%). However, CuGaSe2 photocathodes suffer from non-ideal surface energetics, requiring additional PV cells to drive the water splitting process. The hybrid photo-electrode (HPE) device, in which one PEC electrode is placed on top of one solar cell, is by far the most efficiency approach for unbiased solar water splitting. Unfortunately, CuGaSe2’s narrow bandgap prohibits this integration scheme.

In the present communication, we report on our efforts to synthesize 1.8-2.2 eV band-gap chalcopyrite materials for PEC water splitting. Specifically, we investigated the effect of sulfur on the optical and photoelectrochemical characteristics of the copper chalcopyrite material class. Using co-evaporated 1 μm-thick CuGaSe2 as baseline system, we demonstrate that the substitution of selenium with sulfur is accomplished through a simple annealing step. As a result, a dramatic change in optical properties was observed, with a bandgap increase from 1.6 eV (CuGaSe2) to 2.4 eV (CuGaS2). Then, by simply adjusting the indium content in the film during the initial growth process, the bandgap of sulfurized copper chalcopyrite was decreased from 2.4 eV to 2.0 eV. X-ray diffraction data indicated successful bulk sulfurization by the shift of the prominent (112), (220), and (312) reflections to higher angles. PEC analyses revealed an anodic shift of the flatband potential with increasing bandgap when compared to CuGaSe2. This suggests that the bandgap modification in sulfurized films primarily stems from a downward shift of the valence band, an ideal situation for p-type PEC systems. Saturated photocurrent densities of 5 mA/cm2 were achieved with 2.0 eV red CuIn0.3Ga0.7S2 photocathodes in 0.5M H2SO4 under AM1.5G simulated illumination. From this proof of concept experiment, we have further developed new synthesis approaches and innovative characterization protocols to achieve PV-grade wide bandgap sulfide-based chalcopyrites capable of generating photocurrent densities in the 10-15 mA/cm2 range.