Publication Details

Alsultan, M., Zainulabdeen, K., Wagner, P. W., Swiegers, G. F. & Warren, H. (2019). Designed Conducting Polymer Composites That Facilitate Long-Lived, Light-Driven Oxygen and Hydrogen Evolution from Water in a Photoelectrochemical Concentration Cell (PECC). Journal of composites science, 3 (4), 108-1-108-10.


Light-driven water-splitting to generate hydrogen and oxygen from water is typically carried out in an electrochemical cell with an external voltage greater than 1.23 V applied between the electrodes. In this work, we examined the use of a concentration/chemical bias as a means of facilitating water-splitting under light illumination without the need for such an externally applied voltage. Such a concentration bias was created by employing a pH differential in the liquid electrolytes within the O2-generating anode half-cell and the H2-generating cathode half-cell. A novel, stretchable, highly ion-conductive polyacrylamide CsCl hydrogel was developed to connect the two half-cells. The key feature of the cell was the half-cell electrodes, which comprised thin-film conducting polymer composites that were previously designed to maximize light-driven catalysis at moderate pH. Upon being connected with the hydrogel in the presence of light irradiation (0.25 sun intensity on each electrode), the half-cells spontaneously produced hydrogen and oxygen from water, without the need for an externally applied voltage bias greater than 1.23 V. The cell operated reliably and efficiently for 14 h of continuous testing. These results demonstrate the fundamental feasibility of light-driven water-splitting in a photoelectrochemical concentration cell when employing electrodes that operate efficiently at moderate pH, even with low levels of light illumination. The designed conducting polymer composites proved ideal in that regard.



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