Monitoring Local Electric Fields Using Stark Shifts on Napthyl Nitrile-Functionalized Silicon Photoelectrodes

Haotian Shi, Ryan Pekarek, Ran Chen, Boxin Zhang, Yu Wang, Indu Aravind, Zhi Cai, Lasse Jensen, Nathan Neale, Stephen Cronin

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4 Scopus Citations


We report spectroscopic measurements of the local electric field using vibrational Stark shifts of napthyl nitrile-functionalized silicon under electrochemical working conditions. The CN bond is particularly sensitive to applied electric fields and serves as a good probe for the local electric fields at the silicon-aqueous interface. Here, surface-enhanced Raman spectra (SERS) are collected at a silicon surface using a water immersion lens as a function of the reference potential in a three-terminal potentiostat. In deionized (DI) water and KCl solutions, the nitrile (i.e., CN) stretch downshifts by 4.7 and 8.6 cm-1, respectively, under an applied potential of-1 V vs Ag/AgCl. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations of the napthyl nitrile complex carried out under various electric fields establish the Stark tuning rate to be 0.5622 cm-1/(MV cm-1). Based on this relation, electric fields of-8.4 and-15.2 MV/cm were obtained under negative applied potentials. These measurements report the electric field strength within the double (i.e., Helmholtz) layer, which is responsible for pulling positively charged ions (e.g., H+) toward the surface in reduction reaction processes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)17000-17005
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number31
StatePublished - 6 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5900-76691


  • GERS
  • in-situ Raman
  • local electric field
  • monolayer graphene
  • silicon photoelectrode
  • Stark-shifts


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