Chapter 12: High-Efficiency Water Splitting Systems

John Turner, Matthias May, Henning Doscher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Scopus Citations


In this chapter, we discuss the prerequisites for high-efficiency water splitting and their implementation with tandem cells based on absorbers of the III-V semiconductor material class. A brief outline of efficiency-limiting factors shows that at a given set of boundary conditions, such as catalyst performance, the optimum tandem absorbers require a very precise control of opto-electronic properties, as facilitated by the III-V compounds. After a short history of high efficiency solar energy conversion, we present recent implementations of highly efficient water splitting systems with solar-to-hydrogen efficiencies of 14-16% together with an outlook on further improvements. Even if other absorber systems turn out to be more cost-competitive, the III-V systems currently serve as a testbed for high-efficiency water splitting in general, with lessons to be learned for catalyst requirements, cell design, and efficiency validation. We conclude with a discussion of appropriate efficiency benchmarking routines, outlining potential pitfalls for multi-junction absorbers and how to avoid them.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationIntegrated Solar Fuel Generators
Subtitle of host publicationRSC Energy and Environment Series No. 22
EditorsIan D. Sharp, Harry A. Atwater, Hans-Joachim Lewerenz
PublisherRoyal Society of Chemistry
Number of pages46
ISBN (Electronic)9781782625551
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameRSC Energy and Environment Series
ISSN (Print)2044-0774
ISSN (Electronic)2044-0782

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2019.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CH-5900-72919


  • semiconductors
  • tandem solar cells
  • water splitting


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