Solar-driven H2 production from seawater using stabilized plasmon-enhanced photocatalysts
As natural gas prices proved to be very volatile, sustainable alternatives are highly needed. Water-derived H2 was revealed as a promising substitute, allowing to produce a green energy carrier with a minimum of harmful emissions. Direct splitting of earth-abundant seawater provides an eco-friendly route for the production of clean H2, but is hampered by selectivity and stability issues due to the presence of salts.Photocatalytic seawater splitting is particularly promising for this purpose, as it seems less affected by adversary seawater effects and might rely on free and renewable solar power. Unfortunately, the benchmark photocatalyst, TiO2, still suffers from its low solar light activity. It is only actived upon illumination with energetic ultraviolet light (<5% of the sunlight). In order to broaden the activity window to the visible light, the concept of the 'plasmonic rainbow' was explored. Here, TiO2 is modified with various gold-silver composites that possess the unique optical phenomenon of Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR). This phenomenon enables the absorption of light at very specific wavelengths, depending on the metal type, size, shape and dielectric environment. The light energy might then be converted into hot carriers, strong local electromagnetic fields and/or heat. By combining multiple composites with various sizes and compositions, a broadband absorption could be obtained, resulting in significantly enhanced activity in photocatalytic model reactions under simulated sunlight. The major disadvantage of these plasmonic nanoparticles is their tendency to oxidize and deactivate. To overcome this, polymer shell stabilization strategies were found to be effective to protect the metal cores. Both conductive and non-conductive polymers were studied. For the former, a mix-and-wait strategy generating polyaniline shells of 2-5 nm was used, whille the latter was based on a Layer-by-Layer approach, allowing (sub) nanometer thickness control. For the actual H2 production experiments, the plasmonic loading was optimized in a pure water:methanol scavenger (7:1) mixture and initially the stabilization strategies proofed to be effective for simulated seawater (0.5M NaCl), even after 2 years. However, in real seawater, the activity decreased drastically due to aggregation of the photocatalyst in the presence of multivalent cations. Finally, facile immobilization strategies using 3D printing showed to be able to yield stable, solar active photocatalyst for real seawater splitting.
Antwerp : University of Antwerp, Faculty of Science, Department of Bioscience Engineering , 2023
XXXVIII, 210 p.
Supervisor: Verbruggen, Sammy [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Lenaerts, Silvia [Supervisor]
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Creation 19.02.2024
Last edited 20.02.2024
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