Effect of Cathodic Polarization of n

ECS Electrochemistry Letters, 3 (12) H44-H46 (2014)
Effect of Cathodic Polarization of n-TiO2 Thin Films on Their
Photoresponse towards Water Splitting Reactions
Mourad Fritesa,∗,z and Shahed U. M. Khanb,∗∗
a Joint Center for Artificial
b Department of Chemistry
Photosynthesis, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA
& Biochemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15282, USA
Cathodic reduction of Titanium oxide (n-TiO2 ) thin films was investigated as an alternative approach to customary hydrogen modification of n-TiO2 under hydrogen gas stream at high temperature. Hydrogen modification of n-TiO2 was carried out electrochemically
under cathodic polarization. The photo-response of the electrochemically hydrogen modified n-TiO2 (HM-n-TiO2 ) exhibited a fourfold enhancement in their photoresponse compared to n-TiO2 during water splitting under solar simulated light. The photoactivity
of HM-n-TiO2 suffers a substantial decrease after heat-treatment at 200◦ C, remarkably the photoactivity of these samples was fully
repaired after re-hydrogenation under similar conditions. The electrodes were characterized using electrochemical and spectroscopic
© The Author(s) 2014. Published by ECS. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 License (CC BY, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse of the work in any
medium, provided the original work is properly cited. [DOI: 10.1149/2.0071412eel] All rights reserved.
Manuscript submitted August 13, 2014; revised manuscript received October 13, 2014. Published October 21, 2014. This was Paper
775 presented at the Orlando, Florida, Meeting of the Society, May 11-15, 2014.
Solar water splitting on the surface of semiconductors offers a
green process for hydrogen generation. Due to its chemical stability in basic electrolytes numerous studies have been conducted on
n-TiO2 as a catalyst of choice for water splitting,1–9 however, n-TiO2
is a poor photons absorber of the solar spectrum (due to their intrinsic bandgap, both anatase (3.2 eV) and rutile (3 eV) absorb only the
UV light that accounts for about 3% of the solar radiation.).8 One
popular approach to address the sluggish photoresponse of n-TiO2 is
to dope the semiconductor with extraneous chemical elements and
thus decrease its photo threshold energy.4,5,10–13 Transition metals as
dopands were intensively investigated. Since this effort showed limited success scientists shifted the interest to nonmetallic elements such
as carbon,5,6 nitrogen,4,7 sulfur,8 and hydrogen.14–16 Hydrogen modification of n-TiO2 was mainly achieved by heat-treatment of n-TiO2
powder under a reduced atmosphere of hydrogen gas.14–16 Upon incorporation of hydrogen within the structure of n-TiO2 particles the
native white color of n-TiO2 was blackened and the spectral response
of hydrogen doped n-TiO2 was found to shift to the visible part of the
incident light used.14–16
In this study we investigate the electrochemical hydrogenation of
the pristine n-TiO2 thin film during hydrogen evolution on its surface.
This is a simple one step technique that consists of cathodic polarization of n-TiO2 thin films in alkaline electrolyte under dark conditions.
During this process hydrogen evolves on the surface of the electrode
and consequently the later may undergo hydrogen adsorption on the
surface or protons intercalation within the lattice of the semiconductor to compensate for the negative charges at the cathode.18 We have
previously shown that the electrochemical reduction (hydrogenation)
of n-TiO2 thin films in alkaline electrolyte enhances their photocurrent during water splitting compared to the pristine n-TiO2 thin film
electrodes.17,19 This finding prompted us to investigate the long-term
stability of the photocurrent generated by the cathodically polarized
n-TiO2 . In particular, we focused in determining whether HM-n-TiO2
could remain photoactive in its reduced form for a longer time. Moreover, in this study the effect of heat-treatment of HM-n-TiO2 on its
photoactivity was also investigated. In addition, XPS data were collected to determine any reduction induced change in valence band of
HM-n-TiO2 .
Ti metal sheets of 0.25 mm thick (Alfa Co.) were cut and cleaned
as reported earlier.17 The Ti sheets were thermally oxidized to n-TiO2
Electrochemical Society Student Member.
Electrochemical Society Active Member.
E-mail: [email protected]
in a tubular electric furnace at 825◦ C for 16 minutes. The n-TiO2 thin
films were then reduced by applying a negative voltage of −1.6 V
vs SCE in a custom made single compartment three electrodes electrochemical cell, where, n-TiO2 , Pt, and saturated calomel electrode
(SCE) were used as the working, counter, and reference electrodes,
respectively. The electrochemical reduction or hydrogen modification
of n-TiO2 was carried out in 2.5 M KOH electrolyte solution under
dark conditions for 6 minutes.
Linear sweep voltammetry (LSV) was used to study the electrochemical behavior of the photoelectrodes, HM-n-TiO2, thin films using a PAR (VersaSTAT 3) scanning potentiostat at a scan rate of 50 mV
s−1 . These experiments were performed in the same electrochemical
cell and electrolyte as mentioned above under dark and under solar
simulated light illumination (0.1 W cm−2 ). The working HM-n-TiO2
electrodes were placed at a distance of 8 inches from the light source.
The photocurrent density (Jphoto ) was obtained by subtracting the dark
current density (Jdark ) from the current density under illumination, Jtotal
(Jphoto = Jtotal - Jdark ). A solar simulator (Thermo Oriel model 81192)
equipped with 1000 W Xenon lamp and a global AM 1.5 filter was
used as a light source throughout this study. The light intensity was
measured using Si detector (Model 10DP/SB). The wavelength dependent (monochromatic) photocurrent density was measured using
the Monochromator, model 77250 of Spectra Physics. All potentials
were referenced to the saturated calomel reference electrode (SCE).
Surface morphology of the synthesized thin film oxides was characterized using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), and was performed on a high-resolution Hitachi S-3400 SEM. The Hitachi S-3400
SEM equipped with a Bruker Quantax energy dispersive spectrometer was also used for energy dispersive spectroscopic (EDS) analysis.
EDS spectra were collected at accelerating voltage of 15 kV and a
working distance of 10 mm
Crystallographic data were collected from X-ray diffraction (XRD)
using PANalytical X’Pert-Pro MPD with 45 kV Cu Kα radiation
source (λ = 1.541 Å). Scans were collected from 20 to 70 degrees
2θ at a continuous scan rate. Any possible change in the valence
band induced by the hydrogenation of n-TiO2 was examined by X-ray
photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Measurements were carried out for
both n-TiO2 and HM-n-TiO2 using a Leybold LHS-10 spectrometer
with MgKα (1253.6 eV) X-ray source at a pass energy of 100 eV. The
pressure in the analysis chamber was typically 2 × 10−8 Torr.
Results and Discussion
The photoresponse of the photoanodes, HM-n-TiO2 , was evaluated by measuring the rate of oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in
terms of the anodic photocurrent density, Jp (mA cm−2 ) during water
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ECS Electrochemistry Letters, 3 (12) H44-H46 (2014)
Jp ( mA cm-2 )
J ( mA cm-2)
HM-n-TiO2 dark Current
n-TiO2 dark current
HM-n-TiO2 d1
HM-n-TiO2 d2
HM-n-TiO2 d7
HM-n-TiO2 d15
HM-n-TiO2 d21
HM-n-TiO2 d30
Emeas (V/SCE)
-0.5 -0.3 -0.1
Emeas (V/SCE)
Figure 1. a) Photocurrent and dark current densities vs measured potential, Emeas (V/SCE) plots for n-TiO2 and HM-n-TiO2 thin film electrodes in 2.5 M KOH
electrolyte and under solar simulated light (0.1 W cm−2 ), b) Photocurrent density, Jp , vs measured potential, Emeas (V/SCE) plots for n-TiO2 and HM-n-TiO2 thin
films in 2.5 M KOH electrolyte and under solar simulated light (0.1 W cm−2 ) in day 1 to day 30.
splitting reaction. Figure 1a shows the dependency of photo current
and dark current densities J, as a function of measured potential (Emeas
vs SCE) for n-TiO2 and hydrogen modified HM-n-TiO2 . No noticeable difference in dark current was observed before and after cathodic
polarization of n-TiO2 as is shown in Figure 1a. It is observed in
Figure 1a that at −0.4 V/SCE the photocurrent density enhanced to
1.97 mA cm−2 for HM-n-TiO2 compared to 0.5 mA cm−2 for undoped
n-TiO2 . This four-fold enhancement in the photocurrent density can
be attributed to non-stoichiometric nature of the partially reduced nTiO2 by hydrogen incorporation at the surface and in the lattice of
n-TiO2 during the cathodic polarization.
Photocurrent vs potential measurements at HM-n-TiO2 electrode
were carried out once for every day for 30 days. Initially, the photoactivity of HM-n-TiO2 decreased after the first day (HM-n-TiO2 d1) then
exhibited a substantial steadiness for the following 29 days as shown
in Fig. 1b. Prior to each measurement, HM-n-TiO2 was rinsed with
DI-water and then dried at room temperature under ambient atmosphere. Because hydrogen tends to be attracted to dangling bonds,15
we believe that the initial drop in the photoactivity could be due to
the loss of all or some of the hydrogen attached to the surface of the
HM-n-TiO2 semiconductor.
At the cathodic potential of −1.6 V vs SCE in 2.5 M KOH solution,
the only reaction expected at the electrode surface is the hydrogen
evolution reaction (HER). According to Lemon and hupp18 besides
molecular hydrogen formation during reduction some of the protons
are incorporated within the structure of n-TiO2 to compensate for
the negative charge at the cathode. Ultimately proton insertion (as
impurities) would help to increase the nonstoicheometry/defect in the
semiconductor structure which may lead to the formation of mid-gap
states where electrons could be excited from either the valence band or
the newly created states to the conduction band and thereby, enhanced
the photoresponse.
Fig. 2a shows the photocurrent potential dependency of HM-nTiO2 and its heat treated samples at various temperatures: 100◦ C,
150◦ C and 200◦ C for an hour. It is observed that the photocurrent
density decreased significantly for samples heated at 200◦ C. This
indicates that the most of the incorporated or adsorbed hydrogen atoms
were removed during heat-treatment at this temperature. Interestingly,
the photoactivity of heat treated samples was restored (see Fig. 2b)
after re-reducing them under the same cathodic polarization condition.
We believe that this finding supports to a great extent the fact that part
of the hydrogen was adsorbed at the surface of the electrode.
HM-n-TiO2 100C
HM-n-TiO2 150 C
HM-n-TiO2 200 C
J p ( mA cm - 2 )
Jp ( mA
cm-2 )
HM-n-TiO2 200 C
Re H2 HM-n-TiO2 200C
E meas (V/SCE)
-0.1 -1.1
E meas ( V/SCE)
Figure 2. a) Photocurrent density, Jp vs measured potential, Emeas (V/SCE) plots for HM-n-TiO2 and for heat treated HM-n-TiO2 thin film electrodes at 100◦ C,
150◦ C and 200◦ C, b) Photocurrent density of HM-n-TiO2, the heat treated HM-n-TiO2 at 200◦ C (HM-n-TiO2 200◦ C) and the re-hydrogenated HM-n-TiO2 (Re
H2 HM-n-TiO2 200◦ C) thin film electrodes as a function of the applied potential.
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ECS Electrochemistry Letters, 3 (12) H44-H46 (2014)
belonging to the anatase phase. It should be mentioned that reduction
or hydrogenation of n-TiO2 did not change its crystalline structure
which is consistent with other studies.15,16 Therefore, the incorporation
of hydrogen could be either limited to the surface of the electrode or a
possible charge compensating cations (protons) intercalation into the
lattice of n-TiO2 . The intercalation of hydrogen into the lattice of nTiO2 was suggested by Lemon et al18 who confirmed proton insertion
with the use of Quartz Crystal Microbalance analysis.
The density of states (DOS) valence band of n-TiO2 and HMn-TiO2 were measured by valence-band X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) (see Fig. 4). Both sample display similar valence
band density of state (found from the binding energy threshold in
Fig. 4). The similar valence band edges for both samples is also consistent with similar value of bandgap energy of about 2.7 eV for both
samples as is observed from the threshold of monochromatic photocurrent density at 460 nm (2.7 eV) as shown in Figure 3. The XPS
valence band data is slightly different from what was reported by Chen
et al.15,16 It should be noted that in the case of n-TiO2 particles hydrogenation was carried out under hydrogen flow at high temperature
(600◦ C14 and 200◦ C15 ).
Figure 3. Monochromatic photocurrent density, jp (λ), as a function of wavelength of light, λ (nm), for unmodified n-TiO2 and HM-n-TiO2 .The monochromatic photocurrent measurements were performed under monochromatic light
intensity of 0.1 W cm−2 from a global AM 1.5 solar simulator and 2.5 M KOH
as electrolyte. The measured potential used was set at 0.2 V vs SCE.
Surface morphology of n-TiO2 thin films was investigated using
scanning electron microscopy (SEM) before and after hydrogenation
and no observable of differences were observed. It should be also
noted that H atom cannot be detected by EDS. Furthermore, presence
of K+ was not observed in the EDS spectra of HM-n-TiO2 indicating
the absence of its intercalation.
The cathodic polarization may have changed the electronic properties of n-TiO2 and consequently its photoresponse. The higher photocurrent density of HM-n-TiO2 at each wavelength compared to that
of n-TiO2 can be attributed to enhancement of its electronic conductivity during cathodic polarization (see Fig. 3).
X-ray diffraction spectroscopy (XRD) was used to investigate the
structure of n-TiO2 thin films before and after hydrogenation. After
hydrogenation, the HM-n-TiO2 thin film XRD pattern exhibits the
same crystalline phase consists mainly on rutile phase with some peaks
Figure 4. Valence-band X-ray photoelectron spectroscopic (XPS) spectra for
regular n-TiO2 and HM-n-TiO2 .
We have demonstrated a simple approach to incorporate hydrogen
into n-TiO2 thin films electrochemically by cathodic polarization at
room temperature. The photoresponse of the electrochemically synthesize hydrogen modified titanium oxide, HM-n-TiO2 , toward water
splitting enhanced by four-fold compared to a regular n-TiO2 . Also, it
was found that the effect of hydrogen incorporation in n-TiO2 lattice
on the rate of photoelectrochemical water splitting can be tuned by
thermal treatment of HM-n-TiO2 at different temperatures. It’s worth
noting that the photoactivity of HM-n-TiO2 samples decreased after
heat-treatment at 200◦ C, however their photoactivity can be easily
restored after re-hydrogenation of the same samples under the similar
experimental conditions. To a certain extent this support the fact that
part of the hydrogen was adsorbed at the surface of the electrode.
We gratefully acknowledge Dr. John Baltrus of NETL, DOE, Pittsburgh taking the XPS of n-TiO2 and HM-n-TiO2 samples.
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