Besides the wide field of photovoltaics research, additional technologies, such as the direct conversion of H2 via solar water splitting, are currently being researched. A recent article by Zhang et al. presents their findings on improved manufacturing routes for these cells.
For the time being, Ta3N5 is the material of choice as the band gap and structure are both well suited for light absorption. To form a large interfacial area for efficient light conversion within the cells, arrays of hollow nanorods are employed. As the authors describe in their article, earlier attempts of a one-step synthesis route, also evaluated by other researchers, led to weak adhesion of the brittle nanorod film on the substrate. Their new approach utilizes a two-step synthesis route: first, a nanorod layer of Ta2O5 is formed via anodization in a solution with a lower HF concentration compared to that employed by other groups. Next, this weakly adhering layer is removed by sonication and a second layer is formed. The formation of the second layer also employs a low reaction temperature to limit the reaction rate. Finally, this second nanorod layer is nitridated, forming Ta3N5 from the Ta2O5 layer.
The resulting layer was found to adhere well on the substrate surface and to exhibit only a few cracks. By further optimization of processing times and the additive material used during nitridation, a maximum current density of 11 mA/cm² at 1.6 V was demonstrated by the authors.
Bridging the transport pathway of charge carriers in a Ta3N5 nanotube array photoanode for solar water splitting
Peng Zhang, Tuo Wang, Jijie Zhang, Xiaoxia Chang and Jinlong Gong
Nanoscale, 2015, Advance Article. DOI: 10.1039/C5NR03013G
Sebastian Axmann is a guest web-writer for the Nanoscale blog. His interests comprise manufacturing and metrology of nanostructures as well as their usage in current semiconductor devices. He also posts links to interesting research articles on Twitter: @SebastianAxmann.