Metal-Free Carbon-Based Nanomaterial Coatings Protect Silicon Photoanodes in Solar Water-Splitting

Kunho Yoon, Jae Hyeok Lee, Joohoon Kang, Junmo Kang, Michael J. Moody, Mark C. Hersam, Lincoln J. Lauhon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The decreasing cost of silicon-based photovoltaics has enabled significant increases in solar electricity generation worldwide. Silicon photoanodes could also play an important role in the cost-effective generation of solar fuels, but the most successful methods of photoelectrode passivation and performance enhancement rely on a combination of precious metals and sophisticated processing methods that offset the economic arguments for silicon. Here we show that metal-free carbon-based nanomaterial coatings deposited from solution can protect silicon photoanodes carrying out the oxygen evolution reaction in a range of working environments. Purified semiconducting carbon nanotubes (CNTs) act as a hole extraction layer, and a graphene (Gr) capping layer both protects the CNT film and acts as a hole exchange layer with the electrolyte. The performance of semiconducting CNTs is found to be superior to that of metallic or unsorted CNTs in this context. Furthermore, the insertion of graphene oxide (GO) between the n-Si and CNTs reduces the overpotential relative to photoanodes with CNTs deposited on hydrogen-passivated silicon. The composite photoanode structure of n-Si/GO/CNT/Gr shows promising performance for oxygen evolution and excellent potential for improvement by optimizing the catalytic properties and stability of the graphene protective layer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7370-7375
Number of pages6
JournalNano letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 14 2016


  • Carbon nanotube
  • graphene
  • graphene oxide
  • photoanode
  • solar fuel
  • water-splitting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering

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