• Kuzkova, N.; Kiyan, I.Yu.; Wilkinson, I.; Merschjann, C.: Ultrafast dynamics in polymeric carbon nitride thin films probed by time-resolved EUV photoemission and UV-Vis transient absorption spectroscopy. Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 25 (2023), p. 27094-27113

Open Access Version

The ground- and excited-state electronic structures of four polymeric carbon nitride (PCN) materials have been investigated using a combination of photoemission and optical absorption spectroscopy. To establish the driving forces for photocatalytic water-splitting reactions, the ground-state data was used to produce a band diagram of the PCN materials and the triethanolamine electron scavenger, commonly implemented in water-splitting devices. The ultrafast charge-carrier dynamics of the same PCN materials were also investigated using two femtosecond-time-resolved pump–probe techniques: extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) photoemission and ultraviolet-visible (UV-Vis) transient absorption spectroscopy. The complementary combination of these surface- and bulk-sensitive methods facilitated photoinduced kinetic measurements spanning the sub-picosecond to few nanosecond time range. The results show that 400 nm (3.1 eV) excitation sequentially populates a pair of short-lived transient species, which subsequently produce two different long-lived excited states on a sub-picosecond time scale. Based on the spectro-temporal characteristics of the long-lived signals, they are assigned to singlet-exciton and charge-transfer states. The associated charge-separation efficiency was inferred to be between 65% and 78% for the different studied materials. A comparison of results from differently synthesized PCNs revealed that the early-time processes do not differ qualitatively between sample batches, but that materials of more voluminous character tend to have higher charge separation efficiencies, compared to exfoliated colloidal materials. This finding was corroborated via a series of experiments that revealed an absence of any pump-fluence dependence of the initial excited-state decay kinetics and characteristic carrier-concentration effects that emerge beyond few-picosecond timescales. The initial dynamics of the photoinduced charge carriers in the PCNs are correspondingly determined to be spatially localised in the immediate vicinity of the lattice-constituting motif, while the long-time behaviour is dominated by charge-transport and recombination processes. Suppressing the latter by confining excited species within nanoscale volumes should therefore affect the usability of PCN materials in photocatalytic devices.