Mixed metal oxide semiconductors and electrocatalyst materials for solar energy conversion
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The sun is a vast source of renewable energy, which can potentially be used to satisfy the world's increasing energy demand. Yet many material challenges need to be overcome before solar energy conversion can be implemented on a larger scale. This dissertation focuses on materials used for solar energy conversion through photo-electrochemical (PEC) processes. It discusses methods for improving PEC materials, namely mixed metal oxide semiconductors, by nanostructuring, incorporation of additional elements, and application surface electrocatalysts. In this dissertation several material synthesis techniques are detailed. A high vacuum synthesis process known as reactive ballistic deposition (RBD) is used to synthesize nanostructured bismuth vanadate (BiVO₄), which is studied for PEC water oxidation. Additionally, ballistic deposition (BD) is used to incorporate Mo and W into nanostructured BiVO₄ to improve the PEC activity. An array dispenser and scanner system is used to incorporate metals into copper oxide (CuO) and copper bismuth oxide (CuBi₂O₄) and over 3,000 unique material compositions are tested for cathodic photoactivity. The system is also used to test 35 elements as single component metal oxides, mixed metal oxides, and dopants for titanium dioxide (TiO₂) for use in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs). Lastly, RBD is used to deposit tungsten semicarbide (W₂C) onto p-type silicon (p-type) substrates as an electrocatalyst for PEC proton reduction. In many cases, the synthesis techniques and new material combinations presented in this dissertation result in improved PEC performance. The materials are thoroughly assessed and characterized to gain insights into their nanostructure, chemical composition, light absorption, charge transport properties, catalytic activity, and stability.