Silicon is an attractive material for solar water splitting applications due to its abundance and its capacity to absorb a large fraction of incident solar radiation. However, it has not received as much attention as other materials due to its tendency to oxidize very quickly in aqueous environments, particularly when it is employed as the anode where it drives the oxygen evolution reaction. In recent years, several works have appeared in the literature examining the suitability of thin transition metal oxide films grown on top of the silicon to act as a corrosion barrier. The film should be transparent to solar radiation, allow hole transport from the silicon surface to the electrolyte, and stop the diffusion of oxygen from the electrolyte back to the silicon. In this work, we compare Mn-oxide, Co-oxide, and Ni-oxide thin films grown using physical vapor deposition in order to evaluate which material offers the best combination of photocurrent and corrosion protection. In addition to the electrochemical data, we also present a detailed before-and-after study of the surface chemistry of the films using x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. This approach allows for a comprehensive analysis of the mechanisms by which the corrosion barriers protect the underlying silicon, and how they degrade during the water oxidation reaction.
A photoemission study of the effectiveness of nickel, manganese, and cobalt based corrosion barriers for silicon photo-anodes during water oxidation
Robert O'Connor, Justin Bogan, Anthony McCoy, Conor Byrne, Greg Hughes; A photoemission study of the effectiveness of nickel, manganese, and cobalt based corrosion barriers for silicon photo-anodes during water oxidation. J. Appl. Phys. 21 May 2016; 119 (19): 195301. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4950793
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