Colloidal hybrid heterostructures based on II–VI semiconductor nanocrystals for photocatalytic hydrogen generation


Abstract

  • Department of Physics and Materials Science and Centre for Functional Photonics (CFP), City University of Hong Kong, Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Hydrogen generated through the photochemical cleavage of water using renewable solar energy is considered to be an environmentally friendly chemical fuel of the future, which neither results in air pollution nor leads to the emission of greenhouse gases. The photocatalytic materials for water cleavage are required to perform at least two fundamental functions: light harvesting of the maximal possible part of the solar energy spectrum and a catalytic function for efficient water decomposition into oxygen and hydrogen. Photocatalytic systems based on colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals offer a number of advantages in comparison with photoelectrochemical cells based on bulk electrodes: (i) a broad range of material types are available; (ii) higher efficiencies are expected due to short distance charge transport; (iii) large surface areas are beneficial for the catalytic processes; (iv) flexibility in fabrication and design which also allows for tuning of the electronic and optical properties by employing quantum confinement effects. The presence of co-catalysts on colloidal semiconductors is an important part of the overall design of the photocatalytic colloidal systems necessary to maximize the water splitting efficiency. This review article discusses the rational choice of colloidal nanoheterostructured materials based on light-harvesting II–VI semiconductor nanocrystals combined with a variety of metal and/or non-metal co-catalysts, with optimized light harvesting, charge separation, and photocatalytic functions.

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