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RESEARCH PROFILE

Professor Dr. Vinich Promarak

Department of Materials Science and Engineering
School of Molecular Science and Engineering (MSE)
Tel. 033 014150
Email vinich.p@vistec.ac.th

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Bio-Inspired Dye-Sensitized Photoelectrochemical Cells (DS-PEC) for Solar Hydrogen Production

 

Research Overview

New research on dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical cells (DS-PECs), through which solar driven water splitting to generate solar fuel in the form of hydrogen is realized, has attracted growing interest in the past few years. Inspired by the architectures of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs), DS-PECs based on molecular dye sensitizer functionalized metal oxide semiconductors in association with water oxidation catalysts (WOCs) or hydrogen-evolving catalysts (HECs), are now being designed and tested as promising approaches to generate hydrogen. Optimization of dye sensitizer to achieve highly efficient, stable, zero bias DS-PEC water splitting will open the way to unexpected developments towards practical technological devices.

Solar Water Splitting



As the world’s population increases, energy consumption will increase with it. To meet this demand there is a need to develop alternate energy sources. Although renewable and nuclear energy are growing by 2.5% a year, fossil fuels are still projected to make up at least 80% of the global energy supply in next 20 years. There are uncertainties in estimates of fossil fuel reserves, but the potential for debilitating and possibly devastating environmental impacts arising from the combustion of fossil fuels creates a second imperative for developing alternate energy sources. Of the available renewable sources, the sun is, by far, the largest in availability and is the most likely long-term solution as the dominant primary, carbon-neutral energy source. Harvesting energy directly from sunlight by photovoltaics (PVs) is a very attractive and desirable way to solve the rising energy demand. The solar energy harvested in PV devices can be stored in external batteries. The most efficient and lightweight batteries are typically Li+ ion batteries, but current state-of-the-art Li+ ion battery technology is unable to meet global energy storage demands, with a storage capability of only ~1.03 A-h/g, along with limited stability of many charge/discharge cycles.

Artificial photosynthesis offers a way to overcome these challenges. The goal of artificial photosynthesis is to make high energy chemical fuels from solar energy. The targets are hydrogen from water splitting or CO2 reduction to carbon-based fuels. Solar water splitting provides a sustainable and environmentally benign route for the production of H2, which can be used as a clean fuel. A promising approach is available by using photoelectrochemistry. The results of a recent analysis suggest that photoelectrochemical cells (PEC) operating with a solar efficiency of 10% could replace fossil fuels as the world’s primary energy source.

Dye-sensitized Photoelectrochemical Cells (DS-PECs)

PECs are actually solar cells that produce electrical energy or hydrogen in a process similar to the electrolysis of water. Tandem photoelectrochemical systems that use sunlight to generate hydrogen from water at efficiencies greater than 12% have been known for over 15 years. Unfortunately, the high cost in materials and manufacturing, as well as the long term stability of some of these systems, makes large scale implementation of these particular cells unlikely. Bias-free visible light driven water-splitting DS-PECs have become an interesting due to their cost-effective, and promising method. In these devices, low cost dye sensitizers are used together with molecular catalysts on TiO2 as the photoanodes, and Pt as the cathode. In this system, the dye sensitizer will generate electron by light absorption and at the same time facilitate the oxidation of water by molecular catalysts producing O2, as it works very well in dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs). The photogenerated electrons migrate through an external circuit to the counter electrode, where proton reductions occur to generate H2.

 

Our research team at VISTEC has been developing variety of new dye sensitizers for DSCs for many years. High efficiency DSC devices and module prototypes have been fabricated from these new dye sensitizers. Application of these knowledges in photoelectrochemical systems would lead to high efficiency bias-free visible light driven water-splitting DS-PECs. The aim of the research project is to develop new dye sensitizers for high efficiency bias-free water-splitting DS-PECs and develop the DS-PECs to the application stag.

 

Selected Publications

  • Pattanasattayavong P., Mottram A. D., Yan F., and Anthopoulos T. D., Advanced Functional Materials 25, 6802-6813 (2015).
  • Yaacobi-Gross N., Treat N. D., Pattanasattayavong P., Faber H., Perumal A. K., Stingelin N., Bradley D. D. C., Stavrinou P. N., Heeney M., and Anthopoulos T. D., Advanced Energy Materials 5, 1401529 (2015).
  • Perumal A., Faber H., Yaacobi-Gross N., Pattanasattayavong P., Burgess C., Jha S., McLachlan M. A., Stavrinou P. N., Anthopoulos T. D., and Bradley D. D. C., Advanced Materials 26, 93-100 (2015).
  • Thomas S. R., Pattanasattayavong P., and Anthopoulos T. D., Chemical Society Reviews 42, 6910-6923 (2013).
  • Pattanasattayavong P., Ndjawa G. O. N., Zhao K., Chou K. W., Yaacobi-Gross N., O'Regan B. C., Amassian A., and Anthopoulos T. D., Chemical Communications 49, 4154-4156 (2013).
  • Pattanasattayavong P., Yaacobi-Gross N., Zhao K., Ndjawa G. O. N., Li J., Yan F., O'Regan B. C., Amassian A., and Anthopoulos T. D., Advanced Materials 25, 1504-1509 (2013).
 

Research Group Members:

Dr. Pichaya Pattanasattayavong (Lecturer)
Dr. Vinich Promarak (Professor)
Dr. Taweesak Sudyoasuk(Postdoctoral Research Fellow)
Dr. Duangratchaneekorn Muenmart (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)
Dr. A-monrat Thangthong(Postdoctoral Research Fellow)
Dr. Narid Prachumrak(Postdoctoral Research Fellow)
Ms. Thanyarat Chawanpunyawat
Ms. Patchareeporn Panoy
Ms. Anna Pachariyangkun
Ms. Pimpisut Worakajit
Ms. Jidapa Chaopaknam
 

International Research Collaborator:

Prof. Thomas D. Anthopoulos Imperial College London