In photoelectrochemical cells, sunlight may be converted into chemical energy by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Hematite (α-Fe 2O 3) is a promising photoanode material for the water oxidation component of this process. Numerous research groups have attempted to improve hematite's photocatalytic efficiency despite a lack of foundational knowledge regarding its surface reaction kinetics. To elucidate detailed reaction mechanisms and energetics, we performed periodic density functional theory + U calculations for the water oxidation reaction on the fully hydroxylated hematite (0001) surface. We investigate two different concentrations of surface reactive sites. Our best model involves calculating water oxidation mechanisms on a pure (1× 1) hydroxylated hematite slab (corresponding to 1/3 ML of reactive sites) with an additional overlayer of water molecules to model solvation effects. This yields an overpotential of 0.77 V, a value only slightly above the 0.5-0.6 V experimental range. To explore whether doped hematite can exhibit an even lower overpotential, we consider cation doping by substitution of Fe by Ti, Mn, Co, Ni, or Si and F anion doping by replacing O on the fully hydroxylated surface. The reaction energetics on pure or doped hematite surfaces are described using a volcano plot. The relative stabilities of holes on the active O anions are identified as the underlying cause for trends in energetics predicted for different dopants. We show that moderately charged O anions give rise to smaller overpotentials. Co- or Ni-doped hematite surfaces give the most thermodynamically favored reaction pathway (lowest minimum overpotential) among all dopants considered. Very recent measurements (Electrochim. Acta2012, 59, 121-127) reported improved reactivity with Ni doping, further validating our predictions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry