Transparent Cuprous Oxide Photocathode Enabling a Stacked Tandem Cell for Unbiased Water Splitting
Photoelectrochemical water splitting represents an attractive method of capturing and storing the immense energy of sunlight in the form of hydrogen, a clean chemical fuel. Given the large energetic demand of water electrolysis, and the defined spectrum of photons available from incident sunlight, a two absorber tandem device is required to achieve high efficiencies. The two absorbers should be of different and complementary bandgaps, connected in series to achieve the necessary voltage, and arranged in an optical stack configuration to maximize the utilization of sunlight. This latter requirement demands a top device that is responsive to high-energy photons but also transparent to lower-energy photons, which pass through to illuminate the bottom absorber. Here, cuprous oxide (Cu2O) is employed as a top absorber component, and the factors influencing the balance between transparency and efficiency toward operation in a tandem configuration are studied. Photocathodes based on Cu2O electrodeposited onto conducting glass substrates treated with thin, discontinuous layers of gold achieve reasonable sub-bandgap transmittance while retaining performances comparable to their opaque counterparts. This new high-performance transparent photocathode is demonstrated in tandem with a hybrid perovskite photovoltaic cell, resulting in a full device capable of standalone sunlight-driven water splitting.