Computational Screening of Materials for Water Splitting Applications

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Design new materials for energy production in a photoelectrochemical cell, where water is split into hydrogen and oxygen by solar light, is one possible solution to the problem of increasing energy demand and storage. A screening procedure based on ab-initio density functional theory calculations has been applied to guide the search for new materials. The main descriptors of the properties relevant for the screening are: heat of formation, electronic bandgap, and positions of the band edges with respect to the red-ox levels of water. A recently implemented exchange-correlation functional, called GLLB-SC, has been used for the estimation of the bandgaps. Firstly, a screening procedure has been applied to 19000 cubic perovskite structures. These are obtained by combining 52 metals together with oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and fluorine as anions. 32 promising materials have been found for visible light harvesting, 20 for the one-photon and 12 for the two-photon water splitting process. In addition, 16 candidates were suggested for the transparent shielding of the photocatalyst. The problem of corrosion has been addressed for the candidates for the one-photon scheme using Pourbaix diagrams.
Later on, the screening has been extended to more complex structures, like double and layered perovskites and new compounds of interest for the light harvesting problem were found. In addition, the trends in the bandgaps have been studied. The bandgaps can be tuned by an opportune combination of the metal atoms in the B-ion position in the double perovskite, and of the B-metal ion with the thickness of the octahedra in the layered perovskite structure. In the first part, the crystal structure has been kept fixed. Later, the calculations were done using the structures provided by the Materials Project database, which is based on the experimental ICSD database, and the bandgaps were calculated with focus on finding materials with potential as light harvesters. 24 materials have been proposed for the one-photon water splitting and 23 for the two-photon mechanism. Another method to obtain energy from Sun is using a photovoltaic cell that converts solar light into electricity. The absorption spectra of 70 experimentally known compounds, that are expected to be useful for light-to-electricity generation, have been calculated. 17 materials have been predicted to be promising for a single-layer solar cell and 11 for a double-layer device.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
PublisherTechnical University of Denmark
Number of pages204
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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