Light-driven water oxidation for solar fuels

Karin J. Young, Lauren A. Martini, Rebecca L. Milot, Robert C. Snoeberger, Victor S. Batista, Charles A. Schmuttenmaer, Robert H. Crabtree, Gary W. Brudvig

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

278 Citations (Scopus)


Light-driven water oxidation is an essential step for conversion of sunlight into storable chemical fuels. Fujishima and Honda reported the first example of photoelectrochemical water oxidation in 1972. In their system, TiO 2 was irradiated with ultraviolet light, producing oxygen at the anode and hydrogen at a platinum cathode. Inspired by this system, more recent work has focused on functionalizing nanoporous TiO 2 or other semiconductor surfaces with molecular adsorbates, including chromophores and catalysts that absorb visible light and generate electricity (i.e., dye-sensitized solar cells) or trigger water oxidation at low overpotentials (i.e., photocatalytic cells). The physics involved in harnessing multiple photochemical events for multi-electron reactions, as required in the four-electron water-oxidation process, has been the subject of much experimental and computational study. In spite of significant advances with regard to individual components, the development of highly efficient photocatalytic cells for solar water splitting remains an outstanding challenge. This article reviews recent progress in the field with emphasis on water-oxidation photoanodes inspired by the design of functionalized thin-film semiconductors of typical dye-sensitized solar cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2503-2520
Number of pages18
JournalCoordination Chemistry Reviews
Issue number21-22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • Artificial photosynthesis
  • Solar fuels
  • Water splitting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry

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