Monday, May 4, 2015
Abstract-Electron Injection Dynamics in High-Potential Porphyrin Photoanodes
Department of Chemistry and Energy Sciences Institute, Yale University, 225 Prospect Street, P.O. Box 208107, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8107, United States
Acc. Chem. Res., Article ASAP
Publication Date (Web): May 4, 2015
Copyright © 2015 American Chemical Society
There is a growing need to utilize carbon neutral energy sources, and it is well known that solar energy can easily satisfy all of humanity’s requirements. In order to make solar energy a viable alternative to fossil fuels, the problem of intermittency must be solved. Batteries and supercapacitors are an area of active research, but they currently have relatively low energy-to-mass storage capacity. An alternative and very promising possibility is to store energy in chemical bonds, or make a solar fuel.
The process of making solar fuel is not new, since photosynthesis has been occurring on earth for about 3 billion years. In order to produce any fuel, protons and electrons must be harvested from a species in its oxidized form. Photosynthesis uses the only viable source of electrons and protons on the scale needed for global energy demands: water. Because artificial photosynthesis is a lofty goal, water oxidation, which is a crucial step in the process, has been the initial focus.
This Account provides an overview of how terahertz spectroscopy is used to study electron injection, highlights trends from previously published reports, and concludes with a future outlook. It begins by exploring similarities and differences between dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) for producing electricity and a putative device for splitting water and producing a solar fuel. It then identifies two important problems encountered when adapting DSSC technology to water oxidation—improper energy matching between sensitizer energy levels with the potential for water oxidation and the instability of common anchoring groups in water—and discusses steps to address them. Emphasis is placed on electron injection from sensitizers to metal oxides because this process is the initial step in charge transport. Both the rate and efficiency of electron injection are analyzed on a sub-picosecond time scale using time-resolved terahertz spectroscopy (TRTS).
Bio-inspired pentafluorophenyl porphyrins are promising sensitizers because their high reduction potentials are compatible with the energy requirements of water oxidation. TRTS of free-base and metalated pentafluorophenyl porphyrins reveal inefficient electron injection into TiO2 nanoparticles but more efficient electron injection into SnO2 nanoparticles. With SnO2, injection time scales depend strongly on the identity of the central substituent and are affected by competition with excited-state deactivation processes. Heavy or paramagnetic metal ions increase the electron injection time scale by roughly one order of magnitude relative to free-base or Zn2+ porphyrins due to the possibility of electron injection from longer-lived, lower-lying triplet states. Furthermore, electron injection efficiency loosely correlates with DSSC performance.
The carboxylate anchoring group is commonly used to bind DSSC sensitizers to metal oxide surfaces but typically is not stable under the aqueous and oxidative conditions required for water oxidation. Electron injection efficiency of several water-stable alternatives, including phosphonic acid, hydroxamic acid, acetylacetone, and boronic acid, were evaluated using TRTS, and hydroxamate was found to perform as well as the carboxylate.
The next challenge is incorporating a water oxidation catalyst into the design. An early example, in which an Ir-based precatalyst is cosensitized with a fluorinated porphyrin, reveals decreased electron injection efficiency despite an increase in photocurrent. Future research will seek to better understand and address these difficulties.