• Grave, D.A.; Ellis, D.S.; Piekner, Y.; Kölbach, M.; Dotan, H.; Kay, A.; Schnell, P.; van de Krol, R.; Abdi, F.F.; Friedrich, D.; Rothschild, A.: Extraction of mobile charge carrier photogeneration yield spectrum of ultrathin-film metal oxide photoanodes for solar water splitting. Nature Materials 20 (2021), p. 833-840

Open Access Version

Light absorption in strongly correlated electron materials can excite electrons and holes into a variety of different states. Some of these excitations yield mobile charge carriers, whereas others result in localized states that cannot contribute to photocurrent. The photogeneration yield spectrum, xi(lamba), represents the wavelength-dependent ratio between the contributing absorption that ultimately generates mobile charge carriers and the overall absorption. Despite being a vital material property, it is not trivial to characterize. Here, we present an empirical method to extract xi(lamba) through optical and external quantum efficiency measurements of ultrathin films. We applied this method to haematite photoanodes for water photo-oxidation, and observed that it is self-consistent for different illumination conditions and applied potentials. We found agreement between the extracted xi(lamba) spectrum and the photoconductivity spectrum measured by time-resolved microwave conductivity. These measurements revealed that mobile charge carrier generation increases with increasing energy across haematite’s absorption spectrum. Low-energy non-contributing absorption fundamentally limits the photoconversion efficiency of haematite photoanodes and provides an upper limit to the achievable photocurrent that is substantially lower than that predicted based solely on absorption above the bandgap. We extended our analysis to TiO2 and BiVO4 photoanodes, demonstrating the broader utility of the method for determining xi(lamba).