Light induced hydrogen generation with silicon-based thin film tandem solar cells used as photocathode

International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Volume 40, Issue 2, 2015, Pages 899-904.

Bernhard Kaiser1, Wolfram Calvet1, Eswaran Murugasen1, Jürgen Ziegler1, Wolfram Jaegermann1, Sascha E. Pust2, Friedhelm Finger2, Sascha Hoch3, Matthias Blug3, Jens Busse3

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  1. Technische Universität Darmstadt, Institute of Materials Science, Jovanka-Bontschits-Straße 2, Darmstadt 64287, Germany.
  2. Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Institut für Energie-und Klimaforschung (IEK-5), Jülich 52425, Germany.
  3. Evonik Industries AG, Creavis Technologies & Innovation, Paul-Baumann-Straße 1, Marl 45722, Germany. 


Thin film tandem solar cells based on amorphous and microcrystalline silicon (a-Si:H/μc-Si:H) are employed as the cathode in a photoelectrochemical converter for solar water splitting. It is setup in such a way that the silver back contact of the cell is directly connected to the electrolyte and the light enters the cell through the glass substrate. This arrangement offers a number of distinct advantages compared to the conventional designs. The cathode is further optimized by the deposition of platinum nanoparticles to achieve higher conversion efficiencies. The front contact of the photovoltaic cell is connected to a standard platinum counter electrode in a three-electrode arrangement. Photon to current conversion efficiencies can reach up to 3% for our design, which has not been optimized to the requirements of the water splitting reaction, yet. The optimization of such tandem devices made from abundant silicon in combination with nanoparticle catalysts offers an affordable pathway for direct solar-to-fuel conversion devices in form of an artificial inorganic leaf.

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