Dual Shield: Bifurcated Coating Analysis of Multilayered WO3/BiVO4/TiO2/NiOOH Photoanodes for Sustainable Solar-to-Hydrogen Generation from Challenging Waters

Logu Thirumalaisamy, Zhengfei Wei, Katherine Rebecca Davies, Michael G. Allan, James McGettrick, Trystan Watson, Moritz F. Kuehnel, Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The heterostructure WO3/BiVO4-based photoanodes have garnered significant interest for photoelectrochemical (PEC) solar-driven water splitting to produce hydrogen. However, challenges such as inadequate charge separation and photocorrosion significantly hinder their performance, limiting overall solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency. The incorporation of cocatalysts has shown promise in improving charge separation at the photoanode, yet mitigating photocorrosion remains a formidable challenge. Amorphous metal oxide-based passivation layers offer a potential solution to safeguard semiconductor catalysts. We examine the structural, surface morphological, and optical properties of two-step-integrated sputter and spray-coated TiO2 thin films and their integration onto WO3/BiVO4, both with and without NiOOH cocatalyst deposition. The J-V experiments reveal that the NiOOH cocatalyst enhances the photocurrent density of the WO3/BiVO4 photoanode in water splitting reactions from 2.81 to 3.87 mA/cm2. However, during prolonged operation, the photocurrent density degrades by 52%. In contrast, integrated sputter and spray-coated TiO2 passivation layer-coated WO3/BiVO4/NiOOH samples demonstrate a ∼88% enhancement in photocurrent density (5.3 mA/cm2) with minimal degradation, emphasizing the importance of a strategic coating protocol to sustain photocurrent generation. We further explore the feasibility of using natural mine wastewater as an electrolyte feedstock in PEC generation. Two-compartment PEC cells, utilizing both fresh water and metal mine wastewater feedstocks exhibit 66.6 and 74.2 μmol/h cm2 hydrogen generation, respectively. Intriguingly, the recovery of zinc (Zn2+) heavy metals on the cathode surface in the mine wastewater electrolyte is confirmed through surface morphology and elemental analysis. This work underscores the significance of passivation layer and cocatalyst coating methodologies in a sequential order to enhance charge separation and protect the photoanode from photocorrosion, contributing to sustainable hydrogen generation. Additionally, it suggests the potential of utilizing wastewater in electrolyzers as an alternative to freshwater resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3044-3060
Number of pages17
JournalACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue number8
Early online date12 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2024


  • co-catalysts
  • hydrogen
  • mine
  • NiOOH
  • passivation
  • photoelectrochemical
  • solar energy
  • spray coating
  • sputtering
  • sustainability
  • TiO
  • water pollutants
  • WO/BiVO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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