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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R013446/1
Title: Band alignment of light harvesting nanomaterials and metal oxides for photovoltaic and photocatalytic applications.
Principal Investigator: THOMAS, Dr AG
Other Investigators:
Lewis, Professor DJ
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Materials
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: Overseas Travel Grants (OTGS)
Starts: 29 August 2017 Ends: 28 February 2018 Value (£): 10,920
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Production of hydrogen using sunlight and a catalyst is potentially a way to reduce carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels. However, in order to compete with fossil fuels the catalysts must be cheap to manufacture, sustainable and be robust. The white pigment, titanium dioxide was used to produce hydrogen by photoelectrocemically splitting water in the 1970s, but nearly 50 years later a stable system based on TiO2 still has not been realised. One reason for this is that TiO2 does not absorb in the visible region of the solar spectrum. In order to have a high efficiency with regards to sunlight we need a system which will absorb in the visible spectrum. There have been several approaches to this including functionalising metal oxides such as TiO2 and ZnO with dyes. In these systems the dye absorbs sunlight and an electron is injected into the titanium dioxide, leaving a hole in the dye which can react with the water to form hydrogen and oxygen. However these organic dyes tend to be unstable in the long term. An alternative is to use a inorganic sensitising nanomaterial. These have the dual advantages of increased stability and also that the band gap energy, which governs which wavelengths of light are absorbed, can be tuned to ensure optimum absorption.

The alignment of the bands of the oxide semiconductor and the functionalising nanomaterial is critical for water splitting. If the occupied bands of the sensitising nanomaterial overlap with the occupied valence band of the oxide then recombination of the electron and hole can occur between these two materials, preventing the hole from reacting with water. Similarly if the empty band of the nanomaterial, into which the electron is excited upon absorption of light, does not overlap with the empty band of the oxide then the excited electron cannot be injected into the oxide, and is then likely to recombine with the hole in the nanomaterial. This study will use high resolution spectroscopy, to determine the relative positions of the occupied and unoccupied bands in the two-dimensional (2-D) material, MoS2 and two metal oxides with the potential to be used in solar water splitting devices, ZnO and TiO2. By understanding where the bands lie relative to one another, we can design 2-D materials which have the ideal band structure both for light absorption and charge injection. The work will also allow us to study the stability the 2-D metal sulphide in the atmosphere, particularly with regards to the formation of sulphates by reaction with water or oxygen in the atmosphere.

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Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk