Nanostructured TiO2 films with hierarchical morphology were synthesized by Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) and tested as photoanodes for photoelectrochemical water splitting. The tuning of their photoresponse was addressed by employing oxygen-poor conditions both during the growth and the post-deposition annealing of the material: depositions were performed in different Ar/O2 background gas mixtures from both TiO2 and Ti targets, while thermal treatments, after standard air annealing for crystallization, were performed in a Ar/H2 mixture. By testing the double-annealed photoanodes in a three-electrode cell with solar simulator illumination, clear trends with optimal synthesis conditions for each target material appeared; for these conditions, also the effect of vacuum annealing was studied. The morphological, structural and optical properties were investigated by SEM, Raman spectroscopy and UV-visible-IR spectroscopy. From these observations, it emerged that the films deposited in the presence of oxygen do not show substantial differences in their morphology/structure, on the contrary of pure Ar-deposited films; thus, the trends in photoresponse can be related to differences in the defect concentration of the material, induced by depositions in the different Ar/O2 atmospheres and by annealing in Ar/H2 mixture or vacuum. In particular, the reported results suggest that some degree of oxygen shortage in the deposition process leads to a better photoelectrochemical performance, and a combination between improved charge transport and surface hydrogenation/reduction effect, leading to enhanced photoresponse, is suggested. This work elucidates the possibility of an accurate tuning of the material photoactivity by control of the deposition and annealing conditions.
Tuning the photoelectrochemical properties of hierarchical TiO2 nanostructures by control of pulsed laser deposition and annealing in reducing conditions / Mascaretti, Luca; Matarrese, Roberto; Ravanelli, Andrea; Isacchi, Manuel; Mazzolini, Piero; Casari, Carlo Spartaco; Russo, Valeria; Nova, Isabella; Terraneo, Giancarlo; Ducati, C.; Li Bassi, Andrea. - In: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF HYDROGEN ENERGY. - ISSN 1879-3487. - 42(2017), pp. 26639-26651. [10.1016/j.ijhydene.2017.09.029 0]
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