Direct Splitting of Water Under Visible Light Irradiation with an Oxide Semiconductor Photocatalyst

Photoreaction Control Research Center, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, 1-1-1 Higashi, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8565, Japan.
Nature (Impact Factor: 41.46). 01/2002; 414(6864):625-7. DOI: 10.1038/414625a
Source: PubMed


The photocatalytic splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen using solar energy is a potentially clean and renewable source for hydrogen fuel. The first photocatalysts suitable for water splitting, or for activating hydrogen production from carbohydrate compounds made by plants from water and carbon dioxide, were developed several decades ago. But these catalysts operate with ultraviolet light, which accounts for only 4% of the incoming solar energy and thus renders the overall process impractical. For this reason, considerable efforts have been invested in developing photocatalysts capable of using the less energetic but more abundant visible light, which accounts for about 43% of the incoming solar energy. However, systems that are sufficiently stable and efficient for practical use have not yet been realized. Here we show that doping of indium-tantalum-oxide with nickel yields a series of photocatalysts, In(1-x)Ni(x)TaO(4) (x = 0-0.2), which induces direct splitting of water into stoichiometric amounts of oxygen and hydrogen under visible light irradiation with a quantum yield of about 0.66%. Our findings suggest that the use of solar energy for photocatalytic water splitting might provide a viable source for 'clean' hydrogen fuel, once the catalytic efficiency of the semiconductor system has been improved by increasing its surface area and suitable modifications of the surface sites.

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