Revealing the Role of Redox Reaction Selectivity and Mass Transfer in Current–Voltage Predictions for Ensembles of Photocatalysts

17 January 2024, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Photocatalysts are conceptually simple reaction units where nanoscale semiconductors integrated with catalysts drive a pair of redox reactions on illumination. However, the proximity of reaction sites performing cathodic and anodic reactions poses dire challenges to realize large light-to-fuel conversion efficiencies. In this study, a powerful, yet straightforward, equivalent-circuit detail-balance modeling framework is developed and applied to evaluate the performance of photocatalytic systems featuring multiple light absorbers. Specifically, low bandgap iridium-doped strontium titanate is modeled a Z-scheme photocatalyst to effect desired hydrogen evolution and iron-based redox shuttle oxidation reactions. Our model has unique capabilities to simulate competing redox reactions and address mass-transfer limitations. In a significant departure from state-of-the-art circuit models, our study develops tools to perform load-line analyses by incorporating a net electrochemical load curve that includes both desired and competing redox reactions. Consequently, reaction selectivity is predicted from equivalent circuit models for photocatalytic and photoelectrochemical systems. Our investigation into ensembles comprised of multiple, semi-transparent light absorbers reveals their potential to outperform a single, optically thick light absorber, particularly when operated under mass-transfer-limited conditions. However, this outcome hinges on minimizing mass-transfer rates of select redox species to prevent undesired reactions of hydrogen oxidation and/or redox shuttle reduction. Our findings demonstrate that reaction selectivity can be achieved by tuning asymmetry in redox species mass-transfer even with perfectly symmetric electrocatalytic charge-transfer coefficients. The influences of various kinetic, mass-transfer, and thermodynamic parameters are explored to offer crucial insights to inform the next-generation of photocatalysts, selective coatings, and reactor designs.


detailed balance modeling
Z-scheme reactions
ensembles of light absorbers


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