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Electrodeposited Cu thin layers as low cost and effective underlayers for Cu2O photocathodes in photoelectrochemical water electrolysis

Journal article
Authors Alberto Visibile
Martina Fracchia
Tomasz Baran
Alberto Vertova
Paolo Ghigna
Elisabet Ahlberg
Sandra Rondinini
Alessandro Minguzzi
Published in Journal of Solid State Electrochemistry
Volume 24
Pages 339–355
ISSN 1432-8488
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Pages 339–355
Language en
Keywords Water splitting; Hydrogen evolution reaction; X-ray absorption spectroscopy; Copper
Subject categories Materials Chemistry, Electrochemistry, Spectroscopy


Abstract Cu2O is one of the most studied semiconductors for photocathodes in photoelectrochemical water splitting (PEC-WS). Its low stability is counterbalanced by good activity, provided that a suitable underlayer/support is used.While Cu2O ismostly studied on Au underlayers, this paper proposes Cu(0) as a low-cost, easy to prepare and highly efficient alternative. Cu and Cu2O can be electrodeposited from the same bath, thus allowing in principle to tune the final material’s physico-chemical properties with highprecision with a scalable method. Electrodes and photoelectrodes are studied by means of electrochemical methods (cyclic voltammetry, Pb underpotential deposition) and by ex-situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). While the potential applied for the deposition of Cu has no influence on the bulk structure and on the photocurrent displayed by the semiconductor, it plays a role on the dark currents, making this strategy promising for improving the material’s stability. Au/Cu2O and Cu/Cu2O show similar performances, the latter having clear advantages in view of future use in practical applications. The influence of Cu underlayer thickness was also evaluated in terms of obtained photocurrent.

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