Highly Efficient and Durable III-V Semiconductor-Catalyst Photocathodes via a Transparent Protection Layer

James Young, Rachel Mow, Myles Steiner, Daniel Friedman, Todd Deutsch, Shinjae Hwang, Anders Laursen, Menguin Li, Hongbin Yang, Philp Batson, Martha Greenblatt, Eric Garfunkel, G. Dismukes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus Citations


Durable performance and high efficiency in solar-driven water splitting are great challenges not yet co-achieved in photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells. Although photovoltaic cells made from III-V semiconductors can achieve high optical-electrical conversion efficiency, their functional integration with electrocatalysts and operational lifetime remain great challenges. Herein, an ultra-thin TiN layer was used as a diffusion barrier on a buried junction n+p-GaInP2 photocathode, to enable elevated temperatures for subsequent catalyst growth of Ni5P4 as nano-islands without damaging the GaInP2 junction. The resulting PEC half-cell showed negligible absorption loss, with saturated photocurrent density and H2 evolution equivalent to the benchmark photocathode decorated with PtRu catalysts. High corrosion-resistant Ni5P4/TiN layers showed undiminished photocathode operation over 120 h, exceeding previous benchmarks. Etching to remove electrodeposited copper, an introduced contaminant, restored full performance, demonstrating operational ruggedness. The TiN layer expands the synthesis conditions and protects against corrosion for stable operation of III-V PEC devices, while the Ni5P4 catalyst replaces costly and scarce noble metal catalysts.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1437-1442
Number of pages6
JournalSustainable Energy and Fuels
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-74845


  • photocathodes
  • transparent protection layer
  • water photolysis


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