Nanostructured Semiconductors for High Efficiency Artificial Photosynthesis
Liu, Rui. “Nanostructured Semiconductors for High Efficiency Artificial Photosynthesis”, Boston College, 2013. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/3160.
Photosynthesis converts solar energy and stores it in chemical forms. It is one of the most important processes in nature. Artificial photosynthesis, similar to nature, can provide us reaction products that can potentially be used as fuel. This process promises a solution to challenges caused by the intermitted nature of solar energy. Theoretical studies show that photosynthesis can be efficient and inexpensive. To achieve this goal, we need materials with suitable properties of light absorption charge separation, chemical stability, and compatibility with catalysts. For large-scale purpose, the materials should also be made of earth abundant elements. However, no material has been found to meet all requirements. As a result, existing photosynthesis is either too inefficient or too costly, creating a critical challenge in solar energy research. In this dissertation, we use inorganic semiconductors as model systems to present our strategies to combat this challenge through novel material designs of material morphologies, synthesis and chemical reaction pathways. Guided by an insight that a collection of disired properties may be obtained by combining multiple material components (such as nanostructured semiconductor, effective catalysts, designed chemical reactions) through heterojunctions, we have produced some advanced systems aimed at solving fundamental challenges common in inorganic semiconductors. Most of the results will be presented within this dissertation of highly specific reaction routes for carbon dioxide photofixation as well as solar water splitting.