Lamers, M.; Fiechter, S.; Friedrich, D.; Abdi, F.; Van de Krol, R.: Formation and suppression of defects during heat treatment of BiVO4 photoanodes for solar water splitting. Journal of Materials Chemistry A 6 (2018), p. 18694-18700
Open Accesn Version

Metal oxide photoelectrodes typically suffer from poor carrier transport properties and extensive carrier recombination, which is caused by the presence of intrinsic or extrinsic defects in the material. Here, the influence of annealing temperature and atmosphere on the formation and suppression of defects in BiVO4—one of the best performing metal oxide photoanodes—is elucidated. Annealing in argon has little or no effect on the photoelectrochemical performance due to the competing effects of an increase in grain size (i.e., reduction of grain boundaries) and the unfavorable formation of oxygen vacancies. When annealing in air, the formation of oxygen vacancies is suppressed, resulting in up to ~1.5-fold enhancement of the photocurrent and an order of magnitude increase of the charge carrier mobility. However, vanadium leaves the BiVO4 lattice above 500°C, which leads to a decrease in carrier lifetime and photocurrent. This vanadium loss can be avoided by supplying excess vanadium in the gas phase during annealing. This leads to enhanced charge carrier mobility and lifetime, resulting in improved photocurrents. Overall, this strategy offers a general approach to prevent unfavorable changes of cation stoichiometry during high-temperature treatment of complex metal oxide photoelectrodes.