Material Design for Solar Fuel Production

jae sung lee
Jae Sung Lee
UNIST, Korea
14:10~15:00,November 22nd, 2013


Sunlight is a clean, renewable and abundant energy source on the earth. Its conversion to hydrogen has been considered an ideal solution to counter the depletion and environmental problems of fossil fuels. Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting is an ideal technology for the purpose, since H2 could be produced directly from abundant and renewable water and solar light from the process. The key to the technology is photoelectrodes made of small band gap semiconductors of photocatalytic properties. The materials should have high efficiency, high stability, and low cost. In addition of the discovery of new materials, the structure and morphology of the known materials could be controlled to enhance the performance of the photoelectrodes. In this presentation, the concepts of materials design and their examples are proposed for efficient photoelectrodes of PEC cells for visible light water splitting.

About 400 semiconductor solids are known to have photocatalytic activity for water splitting. Yet there is no single material that could satisfy all the requirements for desired photocatalysts: i) suitable band gap energy (1.7 eV< Eg < 2.3 eV) for high efficiency, ii) proper band position for reduction and/or oxidation of water, iii) long-term stability in aqueous solutions, iv) low cost, v) high crystallinity, and vi) high conductivity. Hence, in the selection of photocatalytic materials, we better start from intrinsically stable materials made of earth-abundant elements. The band bap energy is also the primary consideration to absorb ample amount of solar energy of wide wavelength spectrum. It sets the limit of theoretically maximum efficiency and it could also be extended by band engineering techniques.

Upon selection of the candidate materials, we can also modify the materials for full utilization their potentials. The main path of efficiency loss in PEC water splitting process is recombination of photoelectrons and holes. We discuss the material designs including i) p-n heterojunction photoanodes for effective electron-hole separation, ii) electronhighway to facilitate interparticle electron transfer, iii) metal or anion doping to improve conductivity of the semiconductor and to extend the range of light absorption, iv) one-dimensional nanomaterials to secure a short hole diffusion distance and vectoral electron transfer, and v) loading co-catalysts for faci;e charge separation. High efficiency has been demonstrated for all these examples due to efficient electron-holeseseparation. Modern material processing techniqueshave been explored to materialize these concepts.[1-5]


Research Interests:

Jae Sung Lee is PhD in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University, U.S.A; MSc from KAIST, and B.S from Seoul National University, Korea. He worked for Catalytica, Inc. as a research fellow (84-86), and was a visiting professor to Yale University (93-94).

He has been relocated from POSTECH (Pohang) to UNIST (Ulsan)in March 2013. As a professor at POSTECH, he has 27 years of experience in teaching and research in catalysis and energy technologies. Specific current research projects include:

  1. Photocatalytic water splitting for solar hydrogen and fuels
  2. Materials and electrocatalysis for low-temperature fuel cells.
  3. Catalysis for energy and environment

He is leading a National Research Laboratory (Eco-friendly Catalysis and Energy Laboratory), and is the director of BK+ program (META-material-based Energy Harvest and Storage Technologies). He has published more than 300scientific papers and 90 patents in the field, and his work has been sited ca. 10,000 times (h-factor ~50).


Awards and Honors:

  • 2005-present Full Member, Korean Academy of Engineers
  • 2000-present In the editorial board of Journal of Catalysis, Applied Catalysis,
  • of Molecular Catalysis, Catalysis Letters, and Topics in Catalysis
  • 2004 Green Energy Awards (Korean Institute of Energy Engineering)
  • 2007 Thompson Top Citation Awards (Thompson Reuters)
  • 2010 Yeosan Catalytic Science Awards (KIChE)
  • 2004 Top 30 Research Projects for Excellent Performance in 2004 (KOSEF)
  • 2007 Top 50 Research Projects for Excellent Performance in 2007 (MOST)
  • 2012 Excellent Research Award (MEST)