new frontiers in semiconductor electrochemistry

Overview

We view semiconductor photoelectrochemistry as the missing piece in the world's clean, renewable energy puzzle. A crystalline, inorganic semiconductor immersed in water and illuminated with sunlight is the simplest design for a solar-to-chemical fuel conversion/storage system. If properly constructed, such a photoelectrochemical cell can match or exceed the functionality, efficiency, and tunability of Photosystems I and II found in nature. Despite research in artificial photosynthesis spanning over a century, three major issues have hindered the development of a viable photoelectrochemical solar energy storage system. (1) The existing methods for synthesis, purification, and processing of crystalline inorganic semiconductor electrode materials are energy and resource intensive, limiting the potential for scalability at a level sufficient to replace non-renewable energy sources. (2) The comparative successes of a few semiconductor electrochemical cell designs have narrowed the focus of the field to just a handful semiconductor materials and electrochemical reactions for several decades. (3) The native surface chemistries of many inorganic semiconductor materials are neither suited for electrochemical fuel-forming reactions nor indefinitely stable in reactive chemical environments.

Our core expertise is in electrochemistry but our work spans several disciplines, including surface science, materials science, semiconductor device physics, and physical-inorganic chemistry. Accordingly, our ranks have included students interested in analytical, materials, and inorganic chemistry as well as engineering and applied physics. Our published works to date have been presented in a variety of venues (e.g. national meetings of the American Chemical Society, American Physics Society, Materials Research Society, Electrochemical Society, SPIE...etc) and published across an array of journal types (e.g. Journal of the American Chemical Society, Nano Letters, Applied Physics Letters, Journal of Materials Chemistry). Summaries of current research activities and descriptions of where the science is taking us can be found by following the links in the above research graphic.