Organic photoelectrode engineering: accelerating photocurrent generation via donor–acceptor interactions and surface-assisted synthetic approach

Kochergin, Y. S.; Beladi-Mousavi, S. M.; Kulkarni, R.; Khezri, B.; Lyu, P.; Schmidt, J.; Bojdys, M. J., Pumera,* M. J. Mater. Chem. A 2021, 9, 7162-7171. DOI: 10.1039/D0TA11820F [OPEN ACCESS]

Conventional photoelectrocatalysts composed of precious metals and inorganic elements have limited synthetic design, hence, hampered modularity of their photophysical properties. Here, we demonstrate a scalable, one-pot synthetic approach to grow organic polymer films on the surface of the conventional copper plate under mild conditions. Molecular precursors, containing electron-rich thiophene and electron-deficient triazine-rings, were combined into a donor–acceptor π-conjugated polymer with a broad visible light adsorption range due to a narrow bandgap of 1.42 eV. The strong charge push–pull effect enabled the fabricated donor–acceptor material to have a marked activity as an electrode in a photoelectrochemical cell, reaching anodic photocurrent density of 6.8 μA cm−2 (at 0.6 V vs. Ag/AgCl, pH 7). This value is 3 times higher than that of the model donor–donor thiophene-only-based polymer and twice as high as that of the analogue synthesized in bulk using the heterogenous CuCl catalyst. In addition, the fabricated photoanode showed a 2-fold increase in the photoelectrocatalytic oxygen evolution from water upon simulated sunlight irradiation with the photocurrent density up to 4.8 mA cm−2 (at 1.0 V vs. Ag/AgCl, pH 14). The proposed engineering strategy opens new pathways toward the fabrication of efficient organic “green” materials for photoelectrocatalytic solar energy conversion.

DOI: 10.1039/D0TA11820F