Materials and concepts for energy
Complementary to traditional photocatalyst development, where novel materials systems are developed based on atomic building blocks, recent advances in nanostructure synthesis and fabrication now allow us to create materials from pre-formed or self-assembling nanoscale building blocks. Such materials can have unique optical, electronic and photocatalytic properties; individual building blocks can be chosen and coupled appropriately to optimize photon absorption, energy transfer, charge separation, and catalytic activity. Thus, material properties can be uniquely tailored to the application at hand.
We employ simulations to guide our experiments and to interpret their results. This combined experimental – theoretical design approach allows us to quickly explore parameter space, in order to create efficient photoelectrochemical structures. We will use these concepts to design novel light harvesting materials and architectures, with major areas of application in direct solar-to-fuel generation, photocatalysis, light-driven environmental remediation, and many other applications.
Plasmon-enhanced fuel generation: Sunlight is efficiently captured by a metallic (Au) nanoparticle (strong electric fields shown in red). The resulting increased absorption (in the Fe2O3 absorber) creates electron-hole pairs right at the solid-liquid interface, where they can efficiently drive chemical reactions resulting in hydrogen production.