Atomic force microscopy: Emerging illuminated and operando techniques for solar fuel research

Weilai Yu, Harold J. Fu, Thomas Mueller, Bruce S. Brunschwig, Nathan S. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Integrated photoelectrochemical devices rely on the synergy between components to efficiently generate sustainable fuels from sunlight. The micro- and/or nanoscale characteristics of the components and their interfaces often control critical processes of the device, such as charge-carrier generation, electron and ion transport, surface potentials, and electrocatalysis. Understanding the spatial properties and structure-property relationships of these components can provide insight into designing scalable and efficient solar fuel components and systems. These processes can be probed ex situ or in situ with nanometer-scale spatial resolution using emerging scanning-probe techniques based on atomic force microscopy (AFM). In this Perspective, we summarize recent developments of AFM-based techniques relevant to solar fuel research. We review recent progress in AFM for (1) steady-state and dynamic light-induced surface photovoltage measurements; (2) nanoelectrical conductive measurements to resolve charge-carrier heterogeneity and junction energetics; (3) operando investigations of morphological changes, as well as surface electrochemical potentials, currents, and photovoltages in liquids. Opportunities for research include: (1) control of ambient conditions for performing AFM measurements; (2) in situ visualization of corrosion and morphological evolution of electrodes; (3) operando AFM techniques to allow nanoscale mapping of local catalytic activities and photo-induced currents and potentials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number020902
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Volume153
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 14 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

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