Surface Modification of a-SiC Photoelectrodes for Photocurrent Enhancement

Ilvydas Matulionis, Jian Hua, Feng Zhu, Josh Gallon, Nicolas Gaillard, Todd Deutsch, Eric Miller, Arun Madan

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

6 Scopus Citations


Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water dissociation into hydrogen and oxygen at a semiconductor-liquid interface offers an environmentally benign approach to hydrogen production. We have developed an integrated PEC device using hydrogenated amorphous silicon carbide (a-SiC or a-SiC:H) material as photoelectrode in conjunction with an amorphous silicon (a-Si) tandem photovoltaic device. Such a "hybrid PV/a-SiC" PEC cell produces photocurrent of about 1.3 mA/cm2 in a short-circuit configuration and is durable in a pH2 electrolyte. On the other hand, the aforementioned structure finished with ITO contacts and measured as a solid-state device features a current density of 5 mA/cm2, indicating a potential solar-to-hydrogen (STH) conversion efficiency of about 6% in the hybrid PV/a-SiC PEC cell. The much lower photocurrent measured in the hybrid PEC cell suggests that there exists an interfacial barrier between the a-SiC and electrolyte, which hinders the photocurrent extraction. In order to mitigate against the interfacial barrier and hence improve the photo-generated charge carrier transport through the a-SiC/electrolyte interface, we have explored several surface modification techniques, namely the use of metallic nano-particles (such as platinum or palladium) and the growth of an additional thin layer (a-SiNx, carbon-rich a-SiC, a-SiF, etc.) on the top of a-SiC by PECVD. In the latter case, it is observed that the addition of a thin PECVD-fabricated layer does not significantly improve the photocurrent, presumably due to a poor band alignment at the a-SiC/electrolyte interface. The use of lower work function nanoparticles like titanium has led to promising results in terms of photocurrent enhancement and an a nodic shift in the onset potential.

Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 2010
EventSolar Hydrogen and Nanotechnology V - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: 3 Aug 20105 Aug 2010


ConferenceSolar Hydrogen and Nanotechnology V
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CP-560-49810


  • Amorphous silicon carbide
  • Barrier
  • Hybrid device
  • Nanoparticles
  • Photoelectrochemical
  • Semiconductor-electrolyte interface
  • Solar-to-hydrogen


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