Bioinspired molecular co-catalysts bonded to a silicon photocathode for solar hydrogen evolution

Yidong Hou, Billie L. Abrams, Peter Christian Kjærgaard Vesborg, Mårten E. Björketun, Konrad Herbst, Lone Bech, Alessandro M. Setti, Christian Danvad Damsgaard, Thomas Pedersen, Ole Hansen, Jan Rossmeisl, Søren Dahl, Jens K. Nørskov, Ib Chorkendorff

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The production of fuels from sunlight represents one of the main challenges in the development of a sustainable energy system. Hydrogen is the simplest fuel to produce and although platinum and other noble metals are efficient catalysts for photoelectrochemical hydrogen evolution, earth-abundant alternatives are needed for large-scale use. We show that bioinspired molecular clusters based on molybdenum and sulphur evolve hydrogen at rates comparable to that of platinum. The incomplete cubane-like clusters (Mo3S 4) efficiently catalyse the evolution of hydrogen when coupled to a p-type Si semiconductor that harvests red photons in the solar spectrum. The current densities at the reversible potential match the requirement of a photoelectrochemical hydrogen production system with a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency in excess of 10% (ref. 16). The experimental observations are supported by density functional theory calculations of the Mo3S 4 clusters adsorbed on the hydrogen-terminated Si(100) surface, providing insights into the nature of the active site. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Materials
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)434-438
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Surface and thin films
  • Materials for energy


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