Earth-abundant thin film materials for solar water splitting

Title: Earth-abundant thin film materials for solar water splitting

Speaker: Prof. Dr. David Tilley

Time:  October 15, Monday, 2018, 2:00 pm

Location: Communication Building 818 Conference Room, Shahe Campus, UESTC.



Prof. David Tilley was born in the United States. In 2002, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of Georgia. He then headed west to continue his studies, and in 2007 received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley under the supervision of Prof. Matthew Francis. Afterwards, he joined the laboratory of Prof. Erik Sorensen at Princeton University as a postdoctoral researcher (2007-2009). At this stage, his burgeoning interest in the energy problem became so great that he chose to dive into a completely new field to learn how to generate hydrogen fuel from water. He received training in photoelectrochemistry as an NSF International Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Michael Grätzel at the EPFL in Switzerland, working on water oxidation catalysis on hematite photoanodes. Following this postdoctoral fellowship, he served as Group Leader for the water splitting subgroup in the Grätzel laboratory from 2011-2014, while also continuing research on copper oxide photocathodes for hydrogen evolution. Since February 2015, David Tilley has been engaged as Assistant Professor of Molecular Approaches to Renewable Energies with tenure track in the Department of Chemistry.


To enable widespread implementation of photoelectrochemical water splitting technology for global scale solar energy conversion, low cost materials prepared from abundant elements will be required. In this talk, I will discuss our research efforts with several thin film materials (Sb2Se3, Cu2O, CuO, and Cu2S) for solar hydrogen production.1–3 These materials are quite promising due to the relative abundance of the elements, suitable bandgap, and favorable band alignments for reducing water. For the copper based materials, a protective overlayer is required to prevent corrosion of these materials,1,3 while the Sb2Se3 is resistant to photocorrosion without protective layers even in strongly acidic media (1 M H2SO4).2 Novel dual working electrode experiments will then be discussed, which enable operando characterization of buried junction photocathodes during hydrogen evolution for a complete picture of the underlying photovoltage generation by the semiconductor during water splitting.4


(1)    Niu, W.; Moehl, T.; Cui, W.; Wick-Joliat, R.; Zhu, L.; Tilley, S. D. Adv. Energy Mater. 2018, 8, 1702323.

(2)   Prabhakar, R. R.; Septina, W.; Siol, S.; Moehl, T.; Wick-Joliat, R.; Tilley, S. D. J. Mater. Chem. A 2017, 5, 23139.

(3)    Septina, W.; Prabhakar, R. R.; Wick, R.; Moehl, T.; Tilley, S. D. Chem. Mater. 2017, 29, 1735.

(4)    Cui, W.; Niu, W.; Wick-Joliat, R.; Moehl, T.; Tilley, S. D. Chem. Sci. 2018, 9, 6062.