Hot carrier extraction occurs in 2D semiconductor photoelectrochemical cells [Austin et. al., PNAS, 2023, 120, e2220333120]. Boosting the energy efficiency of hot carrier-based photoelectrochemical cells requires maximizing the hot carrier extraction rate relative to the cooling rate. One could expect to tune the hot carrier extraction rate constant (k_ET) via a Marcus-Gerischer relationship, where k_ET depends exponentially on ΔG0´ (the standard driving force for interfacial electron transfer). ΔG0´ is defined as the energy level difference between a semiconductor’s conduction/valence band (CB/VB) minima/maxima and the redox potential of reactant molecules in solution. A major challenge in the electrochemistry community is that conventional approaches to quantify ΔG0´ for bulk semiconductors (e.g., Mott-Schottky measurements) cannot be directly applied to ultrathin 2D electrodes. The specific problem is that enormous electronic bandgap changes (>0.5 eV) and CB/VB edge movement take place upon illuminating or applying a potential to a 2D semiconductor electrode. Here, we develop an in situ absorbance spectroscopy approach to quantify interfacial energetics of 2D semiconductor/electrolyte interfaces using a minimal many-body model. Our results show that band edge movement in monolayer MoS2 is significant (0.2-0.5 eV) over a narrow range of applied potentials (0.2-0.3 V). Such large band edge shifts could change k_ET by a factor of 10-100, which has important consequences for practical solar energy conversion applications. We discuss the current experimental and theoretical knowledge gaps that must be addressed to minimize the error in the proposed optical approach.
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