Nanoscale TiO2 and Fe2O3 architectures for solar energy conversion schemes
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AbstractThe direct conversion of sunlight into more useable forms of energy has the potential of alleviating the environmental and social problems associated with a dependence on fossil fuels. If solar energy is to be utilized en-masse, however, it must be inexpensive and widely available. In this vein, the focus of this thesis is on nanostructured materials relevant to solar energy conversion and storage. Specifically, this thesis describes the ambient sol-gel synthesis of titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanowires designed for enhanced charge-transfer in solar collection devices, and the synthesis of novel disordered metal-oxide (MOx) catalysts for water oxidation. The introductory chapter of this thesis gives an overview of the vanous approaches to solar energy conversion. Sol-gel reaction conditions that enable the growth of one-dimensional (1-D) anatase TiO2 nanostructures from fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO) for photovoltaics (PVs) are described in the second chapter. The generation of these linear nanostructures in the absence of an external bias or template is achieved by using facile experimental conditions (e.g., acetic acid (HO Ac) and titanium isopropoxide (Ti(OiPr)4) in anhydrous heptane). The procedure was developed by functionalizing basetreated substrates with Ti-oxide nucleation sites that serve as a foundation for the growth of linear Ti-oxide macromolecules, which upon calcination, render uniform films of randomly oriented anatase Ti02 nanowires. A systematic evaluation of how reaction conditions (e.g., solvent volume, stoichiometry of reagents, substrate base treatment) affect the generation of these Ti02 films is presented. A photo-organic MOx deposition route (i.e., photochemical metal-organic deposition (PMOD)) used to deposit thin-films of amorphous iron oxide (a-Fe2O3) for water oxidation catalysis is detailed in third chapter. It is shown that the irradiation of a spin-coated metal-organic film produces a film of non-crystalline a-Fe2O3. It is shown that annealing at various temperatures produces a-Fe2O3 films with variable electronic properties and catalytic activities in the context of water oxidation. The study revealed that a-Fe2O3 are superior water oxidation catalysts (WOCs) relative to crystalline forms produced by high temperature annealing of the thin-films. This research has important implications in the conversion of sunlight into electricity, and then into hydrogen fuels.
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