Photoelectrochemical (PEC) CO2 reduction is one of the most effective methods for reducing CO2 into other products. The process utilizes sunlight at ambient temperature and pressure. While this method has yielded encouraging results so far, it does necessitate the use of degradable semiconductor materials. Understanding the molecular changes underlying this degradation could eventually aid in the development of ways to minimize and reduce its negative consequences.
Researchers have completed a study to look at the mechanisms that cause cuprous oxide to degrade (Cu2O). The study could help develop Green Energy Market by aiding the efficient and large-scale conversion of carbon dioxide into fuels or other valuable chemicals. It may also assist in resolving the present energy problem and mitigating the impacts of global warming. The team has also presented an approach for reducing the deterioration of this material during PEC CO2 reduction procedures.
The researchers investigated the degrading mechanism of Cu2O as a model photocathode in operation, discovering critical elements that influence the process. Thus, they came up with a practical design to protect the material, thus ensuring long-term and selective CO2 reduction to ethylene by light.
Researchers also conducted a series of studies to learn more about the causes of corrosion in Cu2O photoelectrodes. To accomplish that, they collected significant chemical, structural, and functional data using several approaches. The team found that Photogenerated electrons and oxidation simultaneously reduce Cu2O. This occurs due to holes within the material under illumination at electrolyte-dependent degradation rates.
The findings motivated the researchers to develop a new method for safeguarding photoelectrodes. They used a silver catalyst to speed up the transport of photogenerated electrons. In addition, a Z-scheme heterojunction was utilized to extract the holes in the material.
The importance of surrounding electrolytes in defining the kinetic transformation pathway is highlighted in this study, which is currently disregarded in the literature. Furthermore, the study provides that comprehending material alterations under operating conditions is essential for the rational design of solar-driven devices that incorporate photoelectrodes in new architectures and settings.
The discoveries of this group of researchers could help facilitate the broad deployment of PEC CO2 reduction methods in the future by reducing photoelectrode deterioration. The team added that they would continue to create new solar fuel devices for liquid fuels production using this rational approach—understanding how materials and equipment alter while operating allows for preventive repair and extended activity. They want to pay particular attention to sustainability and circularity to ensure that their materials and methods are applicable in energy production.
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