Favaro, M.; Abdi, F.F.; Lamers, M.; Crumlin, E.J.; Liu, Z.; van de Krol, R.; Starr, D.E.: Light-Induced Surface Reactions at the Bismuth Vanadate/Potassium Phosphate Interface. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B 122 (2017), p. 801-809
Open Accesn Version

Bismuth vanadate has recently drawn significant research attention as a light-absorbing photoanode due to its performance for photoelectrochemical water splitting. In this study, we use in situ ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy with “Tender” X-rays (4.0 keV) to investigate a polycrystalline bismuth vanadate (BiVO4) electrode in contact with an aqueous potassium phosphate (KPi) solution at open circuit potential under both dark and light conditions. This is facilitated by the creation of a 25 to 30 nanometers thick electrolyte layer using the “dip-and-pull” method. We observe that under illumination bismuth phosphate forms on the BiVO4 surface leading to an increase of the surface negative charge. The bismuth phosphate layer may act to passivate surface states observed in photoelectrochemical measurements. The repulsive interaction between the negatively charged surface under illumination and the phosphate ions in solution causes a shift in the distribution of ions in the thin aqueous electrolyte film, which is observed as an increase in their photoelectron signals. Interestingly, we find that such changes at the BiVO4/KPi electrolyte interface are reversible upon returning to dark conditions. By measuring the oxygen 1s photoelectron peak intensities from the phosphate ions and liquid water as a function of time under dark and light conditions, we determine the timescales for the forward and reverse reactions. Our results provide direct evidence for light-induced chemical modification of the BiVO4/KPi electrolyte interface.