Title:
PHOTOELECTROCHEMICAL CELL
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A photoelectrochemical cell includes a compartment divider configured to divide a container into a first compartment and a second compartment, the compartment divider having a first surface facing the first compartment and a second surface facing the second compartment, a first electrolyte in the first compartment, a second electrolyte in the second compartment, a first electrode on the first surface of the compartment divider, a second electrode on the second surface of the compartment divider, a first photocatalyst layer on the first electrode, a second photocatalyst layer on the second electrode, and a catalyst passage connecting the first compartment and the second compartment, the catalyst passage configured to control the first electrolyte and the second electrolyte to flow in one direction.



Inventors:
JI, Sang Min (Suwon-si, KR)
Ham, Dong Jin (Anyang-si, KR)
Kang, Hyo Rang (Anyang-si, KR)
Application Number:
14/048519
Publication Date:
05/29/2014
Filing Date:
10/08/2013
Assignee:
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (Suwon-Si, KR)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
204/252
International Classes:
C25B1/00; C25B9/08
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
THOMAS, CIEL P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HARNESS, DICKEY & PIERCE, P.L.C. (P.O. BOX 8910 RESTON VA 20195)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A photoelectrochemical cell comprising: a compartment divider configured to divide a container into a first compartment and a second compartment, the compartment divider having a first surface facing the first compartment and a second surface facing the second compartment; a first electrolyte in the first compartment; a second electrolyte in the second compartment; a first electrode on the first surface of the compartment divider; a second electrode on the second surface of the compartment divider; a first photocatalyst layer on the first electrode; a second photocatalyst layer on the second electrode; and a catalyst passage connecting the first compartment and the second compartment, the catalyst passage configured to control the first electrolyte and the second electrolyte to flow in one direction.

2. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, wherein the first photocatalyst layer includes an oxidative photocatalyst, and the second photocatalyst layer includes a reductive photocatalyst.

3. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 2, wherein the first photocatalyst layer includes an N-type metal compound semiconductor, and the second photocatalyst layer includes a P-type metal compound semiconductor.

4. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 3, wherein the first photocatalyst layer includes TiO2, and the second photocatalyst layer includes Cu2O.

5. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, wherein the first electrode and the second electrode include at least one of a metal, a metal compound, and carbon.

6. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 5, wherein the first electrode and the second electrode include at least one of aluminum (Al), glassy carbon, and n-BaTiO3.

7. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, wherein the compartment divider includes at least one of Teflon®, a rubber, and an insulating polymer.

8. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, wherein the compartment divider includes a flexible material.

9. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, wherein at least one of the first photocatalyst layer and the second photocatalyst layer has an uneven surface.

10. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 9, wherein at least one of the first surface and the second surface of the compartment divider is uneven.

11. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 10, wherein the first surface and the second surface of the compartment divider are curved, and the uneven surface of the at least one of the first photocatalyst layer and the second photocatalyst layer conforms to a shape of the first surface and the second surface of the compartment divider.

12. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, wherein at least one of the first photocatalyst layer and the second photocatalyst layer has an inclined surface.

13. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 12, wherein at least one of the first surface and the second surface of the compartment divider is inclined.

14. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, wherein the compartment divider, the first electrode, the second electrode, the first photocatalyst layer, and the second photocatalyst layer are incorporated into a single body.

15. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, further comprising: a first electrode catalyst on a surface of the first photocatalyst layer, the first electrode contacting the first electrolyte.

16. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 15, further comprising: a second electrode catalyst on a surface of the second photocatalyst layer, the second electrode contacting the second electrolyte.

17. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 16, wherein the first electrode catalyst and the second electrode catalyst include at least one of a metal, a metal compound, and carbon.

18. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, wherein the first photocatalyst layer contacts the first electrolyte and the second photocatalyst layer contacts the second electrolyte.

19. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 1, further comprising: a micropump in the electrolyte passage, the micropump including one of a salt bridge, an electric pump, and an electroosmotic pump.

20. The photoelectrochemical cell of claim 19, further comprising: a conductive wire configured to connect the first electrode and the second electrode, wherein the micropump is connected to the conductive wire.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119 to Korean Patent Application No. 10-2012-0136455 filed in the Korean Intellectual Property Office on Nov. 28, 2012, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

(a) Field

Example embodiments relate to a photoelectrochemical cell.

(b) Description of the Related Art

Photoelectrochemistry is being suggested for wide use in energy transformation and environmental cleanup. For example, various photoelectrochemical reaction systems and cells using light energy are developed for use in hydrogen production by water splitting and water treatment by organic contaminant destruction. In particular, photoelectrochemistry may be applied to artificial photosynthesis that produces valuable compounds from carbon dioxides (CO2) and water (H2O) using solar light energy. The artificial photosynthesis makes carbon dioxides, which is a representative greenhouse gas, and reacts with water by using solar light energy to produce valuable carbon compounds (e.g., methane, methanol, and formic acids). The artificial photosynthesis is a promising future technology that may reduce greenhouse gases and may transform and store solar light energy by carbon dioxide transformation to solve both environmental problems and energy problems.

The hydrogen production by photoelectrochemical water splitting and carbon compound synthesis by photoelectrochemical carbon dioxide reduction are significant applications of photoelectrochemical reaction using light energy and a photocatalyst. The photoelectrochemical reaction may include a photoelectrochemical reactor, e.g., a photoelectrochemical cell, including one or more photoelectrodes made from a photocatalyst material that may absorb light energy to cause oxidation-reduction. A variety of structures of the photoelectrochemical cell are being developed according to improvement of reaction efficiency of photoelectrochemical reaction and reaction characteristics. A representative structure includes a reactor filled with electrolytes, a pair of photoelectrodes coated with photocatalyst materials provided on a transparent conductive substrate in a symmetrical manner, and an ion conductive polymer membrane or an ion-exchange membrane that divides the two photoelectrodes. This structure may provide relatively easy separation of products and both light transparency and conductivity.

The transparent conductive substrate used in this cell structure may be formed of indium tin oxide (ITO) and/or fluorine doped tin oxide (FTO), and the ion-exchange polymer membrane may be formed of Nafion. These materials for the substrate and the membrane may be relatively expensive.

SUMMARY

According to example embodiments, a photoelectrochemical cell may include a compartment divider configured to divide a container into a first compartment and a second compartment, the compartment divider having a first surface facing the first compartment and a second surface facing the second compartment, a first electrolyte in the first compartment, a second electrolyte in the second compartment, a first electrode on the first surface of the compartment divider, a second electrode on the second surface of the compartment divider, a first photocatalyst layer on the first electrode, a second photocatalyst layer on the second electrode, and a catalyst passage connecting the first compartment and the second compartment, the catalyst passage configured to control the first electrolyte and the second electrolyte to flow in one direction.

The first photocatalyst layer may include an oxidative photocatalyst, and the second photocatalyst layer may include a reductive photocatalyst. The first photocatalyst layer may include an N-type metal compound semiconductor, and the second photocatalyst layer may include a P-type metal compound semiconductor. The first photocatalyst layer may include TiO2, and the second photocatalyst layer may include Cu2O.

The first electrode and the second electrode may include at least one of a metal, a metal compound, and carbon. The first electrode and the second electrode may include at least one of aluminum (Al), glassy carbon, and n-BaTiO3.

The compartment divider may include at least one of Teflon®, a rubber, and an insulating polymer. The compartment divider may include a flexible material.

At least one of the first photocatalyst layer and the second photocatalyst layer may have an uneven surface. At least one of the first surface and the second surface of the compartment divider may be uneven. The first surface and the second surface of the compartment divider may be curved, and the uneven surface of at least one of the first photocatalyst layer and the second photocatalyst layer may conform to a shape of the first surface and the second surface of the compartment divider.

At least one of the first photocatalyst layer and the second photocatalyst layer may have an inclined surface. At least one of the first surface and the second surface of the compartment divider may be inclined.

The compartment divider, the first electrode, the second electrode, the first photocatalyst layer, and the second photocatalyst layer may be incorporated into a single body.

The photoelectrochemical cell may further include a first electrode catalyst on a surface of the first photocatalyst layer and contacting the first electrolyte. The photoelectrochemical cell may further include a second electrode catalyst on a surface of the second photocatalyst layer and contacting the second electrolyte. The first electrode catalyst and the second electrode catalyst may include at least one of a metal, a metal compound, and carbon.

The first photocatalyst layer may contact the first electrolyte, and the second photocatalyst layer may contact the second electrolyte.

The photoelectrochemical cell may further include a micropump in the electrolyte passage, and the micropump may include one of a salt bridge, an electric pump, and an electroosmotic pump. The photoelectrochemical cell may further include a conductive wire configured to connect the first electrode and the second electrode to each other, and the micropump may be connected to the conductive wire.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic sectional view of a photoelectrochemical cell according to example embodiments.

FIG. 2 to FIG. 9 are schematic sectional views of a separator, first and second electrodes, and first and second photocatalyst layers according to example embodiments.

FIG. 10 is a schematic sectional view of a photoelectrochemical cell according to example embodiments.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Example embodiments will now be described more fully with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which some example embodiments are shown. Example embodiments, may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as being limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather, these example embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of example embodiments of inventive concepts to those of ordinary skill in the art. In the drawings, the thicknesses of layers and regions are exaggerated for clarity. Like reference numerals in the drawings denote like elements, and thus their description may be omitted. In the drawing, parts having no relationship with the explanation are omitted for clarity.

It will be understood that when an element is referred to as being “connected” or “coupled” to another element, it can be directly connected or coupled to the other element or intervening elements may be present. In contrast, when an element is referred to as being “directly connected” or “directly coupled” to another element, there are no intervening elements present. As used herein the term “and/or” includes any and all combinations of one or more of the associated listed items. Other words used to describe the relationship between elements or layers should be interpreted in a like fashion (e.g., “between” versus “directly between,” “adjacent” versus “directly adjacent,” “on” versus “directly on”).

It will be understood that, although the terms “first”, “second”, etc. may be used herein to describe various elements, components, regions, layers and/or sections, these elements, components, regions, layers and/or sections should not be limited by these terms. These terms are only used to distinguish one element, component, region, layer or section from another element, component, region, layer or section. Thus, a first element, component, region, layer or section discussed below could be termed a second element, component, region, layer or section without departing from the teachings of example embodiments.

Spatially relative terms, such as “beneath,” “below,” “lower,” “above,” “upper” and the like, may be used herein for ease of description to describe one element or feature's relationship to another element(s) or feature(s) as illustrated in the figures. It will be understood that the spatially relative terms are intended to encompass different orientations of the device in use or operation in addition to the orientation depicted in the figures. For example, if the device in the figures is turned over, elements described as “below” or “beneath” other elements or features would then be oriented “above” the other elements or features. Thus, the exemplary term “below” can encompass both an orientation of above and below. The device may be otherwise oriented (rotated 90 degrees or at other orientations) and the spatially relative descriptors used herein interpreted accordingly.

The terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only and is not intended to be limiting of example embodiments. As used herein, the singular forms “a,” “an” and “the” are intended to include the plural forms as well, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. It will be further understood that the terms “comprises”, “comprising”, “includes” and/or “including,” if used herein, specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps, operations, elements and/or components, but do not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers, steps, operations, elements, components and/or groups thereof.

Example embodiments are described herein with reference to cross-sectional illustrations that are schematic illustrations of idealized embodiments (and intermediate structures) of example embodiments. As such, variations from the shapes of the illustrations as a result, for example, of manufacturing techniques and/or tolerances, are to be expected. Thus, example embodiments should not be construed as limited to the particular shapes of regions illustrated herein but are to include deviations in shapes that result, for example, from manufacturing. For example, an implanted region illustrated as a rectangle may have rounded or curved features and/or a gradient of implant concentration at its edges rather than a binary change from implanted to non-implanted region. Likewise, a buried region formed by implantation may result in some implantation in the region between the buried region and the surface through which the implantation takes place. Thus, the regions illustrated in the figures are schematic in nature and their shapes are not intended to illustrate the actual shape of a region of a device and are not intended to limit the scope of example embodiments.

Unless otherwise defined, all terms (including technical and scientific terms) used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which example embodiments belong. It will be further understood that terms, such as those defined in commonly-used dictionaries, should be interpreted as having a meaning that is consistent with their meaning in the context of the relevant art and will not be interpreted in an idealized or overly formal sense unless expressly so defined herein.

A photoelectrochemical cell according to example embodiments are described in detail with reference to FIG. 1 to FIG. 9.

FIG. 1 is a schematic sectional view of a photoelectrochemical cell according to example embodiments, and FIG. 2 to FIG. 9 are schematic sectional views of a separator, first and second electrodes, and first and second photocatalyst layers according to example embodiments.

Referring to FIG. 1, a photoelectrochemical cell 100 according to example embodiments may include a container 110, a compartment divider 120, a first electrode 132, a second electrode 134, a first photocatalyst layer 142, a second photocatalyst layer 144, a first electrolyte 152, a second electrolyte 154, an electrolyte passage 160, a micropump 170, and a conductive wire 180.

The container 110, which may include an insulator, may include two compartments, an oxidation compartment 112 and a reduction compartment 114 divided by the compartment divider 120. The oxidation compartment 112 may be filled with the first electrolyte 152, and the reduction compartment 114 may be filled with the second electrolyte 154. The oxidation compartment 112 and the reduction compartment 114 may communicate with each other via the electrolyte passage 160 that may be separately provided, and the electrolyte 152 and 154 may flow between the compartments 112 and 114 through the passage 160.

The flowing direction of the electrolytes 152 and 154 may be controlled by the micropump 170 provided at the middle of the electrolyte passage 160. For example, the micropump 160 may make the electrolyte 152 in the oxidation compartment 112 flow toward the reduction compartment 114 while the micropump may prevent or inhibit the electrolyte 154 in the reduction compartment 114 from flowing toward the oxidation compartment 112. Examples of the micropump 170 may include a salt bridge, an electric pump, and an electroosmotic pump. However, examples of the micropump 170 are not limited thereto, and may include anything that can control the flowing direction of the electrolytes 152 and 154. According to example embodiments, the micropump 170 may be connected to the conductive wire 180 such that the micropump 170 may be operated by electrical energy carried by the conductive wire 180.

The compartment divider 120 may include an insulating material, for example, Teflon®, a rubber, and an insulating polymer, and the divider 120 may have a first surface 121 facing the oxidation compartment 112 and a second surface 122 facing the reduction compartment 114. Both the two surfaces 121 and 122 of the compartment divider 120 may be flat as shown in FIG. 1, and FIG. 6 to FIG. 8, or either or both surfaces may be uneven as shown in FIG. 2 to FIG. 5. According to example embodiments, relatively fine unevenness may be formed on the first and second surfaces 121 and 122 of the compartment divider 120 as shown in FIG. 2, or the first and second surfaces 121 and 122 are relatively widely curved as shown in FIG. 3. Referring to FIG. 4 and FIG. 5, the compartment divider 120 may be curved as a whole. In example embodiments, the compartment divider 120 may include a flexible material that can be more easily curved or bent. However, the shape of the compartment divider 120 is not limited thereto and the compartment divider 120 may have various shapes. According to example embodiments, referring to FIG. 9, the first and second surfaces 121 and 122 of the compartment divider 120 may be slanted.

The first electrode 132 may be disposed on the first surface 121 of the compartment divider 120, and the second electrode 134 may be disposed on the second surface 122 of the compartment divider 120. The first electrode 132 and the second electrode 134 may be connected to each other through the conductive wire 180. The first electrode 132 and the second electrode 134 may include at least one of a low-resistivity metal, a metal compound, and carbon, for example, aluminum (Al), glassy carbon, and n-BaTiO3. The first electrode 132 and the second electrode 134 may be attached to the compartment divider 120 by sputtering, simple adhesion, or thin film coating, for example, and may have a thickness of about 10 nm to about 1 mm. The first electrode 132 and the second electrode 134 may have surfaces conforming to the first and second surfaces 121 and 122 of the compartment divider 120. For example, the surfaces of the first electrode 132 and the second electrode 134 may be flat as shown in FIG. 1, and FIG. 6 to FIG. 8, may be uneven as shown in FIG. 2 to FIG. 5, and may be slanted as shown in FIG. 9.

The first photocatalyst layer 142 may be disposed on the first electrode 132, and the second photocatalyst layer 144 may be disposed on the second electrode 134. The first photocatalyst layer 142 may include an oxidative photocatalyst, and the second photocatalyst layer 144 may include a reductive photocatalyst. The oxidative photocatalyst may include an N-type metal compound semiconductor (e.g., TiO2, Fe2O3, and WO3), and the reductive photocatalyst may include a P-type metal compound semiconductor (e.g., Cu2O, p-GaP, and p-SiC). The first photocatalyst layer 142 and the second photocatalyst layer 144 may be deposited by sputtering, chemical vapor deposition (CVD), evaporation and/or thin film coating. Each of the first photocatalyst layer 142 and the second photocatalyst layer 144 may have a thickness of about 10 nm to about 500 μm.

At least one of the first photocatalyst layer 142 and the second photocatalyst layer 144 may have an uneven surface as shown in FIG. 2 to FIG. 6. The unevenness of the first photocatalyst layer 142 or the second photocatalyst layer 144 may conform to the shape of the surface of the compartment divider 120 as shown in FIG. 2 to FIG. 5. However, the unevenness of the first photocatalyst layer 142 or the second photocatalyst layer 144 may be formed independent from the surface shape of the compartment divider 120. For example, referring to FIG. 6 to FIG. 8, the first photocatalyst layer 142 or the second photocatalyst layer 144 may have an uneven surface although the surfaces of the compartment divider 120, the first electrode 132, and the second electrode 134 are flat. The unevenness of the first photocatalyst layer 142 and the second photocatalyst layer 144 may be round as shown in FIG. 6, or may be saw-toothed as shown in FIG. 7.

According to example embodiments, the first photocatalyst layer 142 and the second photocatalyst layer 144 may have a slanted surface. The inclination of the surfaces of the first photocatalyst layer 142 and the second photocatalyst layer 144 may be caused by the inclined surfaces of the compartment divider 120 as shown in FIG. 9. The unevenness shown in FIG. 2 to FIG. 6 may be applied to the structure shown in FIG. 9. However, the shapes of the first photocatalyst layer 142 and the second photocatalyst layer 144 are not limited to the above-described shapes.

As described above, the divider 120, the electrodes 132 and 134, and the photocatalyst layers 142 and 144 may be incorporated into a single body. Because the photocatalyst layers 142 and 144 are disposed further from the divider 120 than the electrodes 132 and 134, external light may be incident on the photocatalyst layers 142 and 144 without passing through the electrodes 132 and 134, and thus, the electrodes 132 and 134 may not be transparent. Therefore, cheaper opaque materials with relatively low resistivity instead of more expensive transparent conductive materials may be selected as materials for the electrodes 132 and 134.

The first electrolyte 152 may include pure water or sea water, and may further include at least one of NaOH and KOH, for example. The second electrolyte 154 may include pure water or sea water, and may further include NaHCO3 and KHCO3.

Operation of the photoelectrochemical cell 100 is described in detail below. Light may be incident on the photoelectrochemical cell 100. The light may proceed from left and right sides of the cell 100 with the structures shown in FIG. 1 to FIG. 6 or from a top of the cell 100 with the structure shown in FIG. 9.

When the first photocatalyst layer 142 in the oxidation compartment 112 receives the light, the first electrolyte 152 in contact with the first photocatalyst layer 142 may be oxidized to produce oxygen gases (O2), hydrogen ions (H+), and electrons. The hydrogen ions in the oxidation compartment 112 may move toward the reduction compartment 114 through the electrolyte passage 160, and the electrons may move to the first electrode 132 and to the second electrode 134 through the conductive wire 180.

When the second photocatalyst layer 144 in the reduction compartment 114, which is in contact with the second electrolyte 154, receives the light, carbon dioxides (CO2) may react with the hydrogen ions in the second electrolyte 154 to be reduced to produce carbon compounds, for example, methanol (CH3OH).

As described above, the photoelectrochemical cell according to example embodiments may produce carbon compounds from carbon dioxides using light energy without more expensive transparent materials or an ion-exchange membrane.

The micropump 170 according to example embodiments may control the electrolytes 152 and 154 to flow in one way, and thus the micropump 170 may obstruct products, for example, methanol produced in the reduction compartment 114, from flowing backward to the oxidation compartment 112 and being re-oxidized.

Referring to FIG. 2 to FIG. 8, the surface unevenness of the first photocatalyst layer 142 and the second photocatalyst layer 144 may cause the scattering of the incident light, thereby increasing the light absorption of the first photocatalyst layer 142 and the second photocatalyst layer 144. In addition, the unevenness may increase the contact area between the photocatalyst layers 144 and the electrolytes 152 and 154, thereby increasing reaction efficiency.

A photoelectrochemical cell according to example embodiments are described in detail with reference to FIG. 10. FIG. 10 is a schematic sectional view of a photoelectrochemical cell according to example embodiments.

Referring to FIG. 10, a photoelectrochemical cell 200 according to example embodiments may include a container 210, a compartment divider 220, a first electrode 232, a second electrode 234, a first photocatalyst layer 242, a second photocatalyst layer 244, a first electrolyte 252, a second electrolyte 254, a electrolyte passage 260, a micropump 270, and a conductive wire 280, like the photoelectrochemical cell 100 shown in FIG. 1. The container 210 may include an oxidation compartment 212 and a reduction compartment 214 divided by the compartment divider 220, and the divider 220 may have a first surface 221 facing the oxidation compartment 212 and a second surface 222 facing the reduction compartment 214.

Unlike the photoelectrochemical cell 100 shown in FIG. 1, the photoelectrochemical cell 200 according to example embodiments may further include a first electrode catalyst 246 disposed on a surface of the first photocatalyst layer 242 and a second electrode catalyst 248 disposed on a surface of the second photocatalyst layer 244. Each of the first electrode catalyst 246 and the second electrode catalyst 248 may include at least one of carbon, a metal, and a metal compound, and may have a thickness of about 1 nm to about 100 μm. One of the first electrode catalyst 246 and the second electrode catalyst 248 may be omitted.

The photoelectrochemical cell 200 according to example embodiments may have a structure shown in FIG. 2 to FIG. 9. The photoelectrochemical cell 200 according to example embodiments may be used in artificial photosynthesis, carbon dioxide transformation, water splitting, or organic contaminant destruction.

While some example embodiments have been particularly shown and described, it will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that variations in form and detail may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the claims.