Cu2O Nanowire Photocathodes for Efficient and Durable Solar Water Splitting
Due to its abundance, scalability, and nontoxicity, Cu2O has attracted extensive attention toward solar energy conversion, and it is the best performing metal oxide material. Until now, the high efficiency devices are all planar in structure, and their photocurrent densities still fall well below the theoretical value of 14.5 mA cm(-2) due to the incompatible light absorption and charge carrier diffusion lengths. Nanowire structures have been considered as a rational and promising approach to solve this issue, but due to various challenges, performance improvements through the use of nanowires have rarely been achieved. In this work, we develop a new synthetic method to grow Cu2O nanowire arrays on conductive fluorine-doped tin oxide substrates with well-controlled phase and excellent electronic and photonic properties. Also, we introduce an innovative blocking layer strategy to enable high performance. Further, through material engineering by combining a conformal nanoscale p-n junction, durable protective overlayer, and uniform catalyst decoration, we have successfully fabricated Cu2O nanowire array photocathodes for hydrogen generation from solar water splitting delivering unprecedentedly high photocurrent densities of 10 mA cm(-2) and stable operation beyond 50 h, establishing a new benchmark for metal oxide based photoelectrodes.