Solar Energy-Assisted Electrochemical Splitting of Water. Some Energetical, Kinetical and Catalytical Considerations Verified on MoS2 Layer Crystal Surfaces

H. Tributsch 1
  • 1 Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft Berlin, Germany


Kinetical, energetical and solid state considerations were elaborated in a search for suitable electrodes for the oxidation of water with visible light. They led to layer type transition metal dichalcogenides and to the photo-electrochemical utilization of optical d-d-transition which do not break chemical bonds. MoS2 was selected as a promising compound and it was actually shown to react with water on illumination with light between 400 and 715 nm. At low electrode potentials the liberation of small quantities of molecular oxygen was traced with polarographic techniques. The main portion of the oxidation products of water was, however, found to be lost for the oxydation of crystal bound sulfur to sulfate. An improvement of this situation in favour of an increased rate of oxygen evolution has been accomplished by means of a redox-catalyst, tris (2,2'-bipyridine) -ruthenium (II), which is oxidized through photochemically generated holes from the MoS2 4 dz²­­- valence band and channels them into oxygen-evolution through nucleo-philic addition of hydroxide. A molecular mechanism was elaborated for the photoelectrochemical oxidation of water on MoS2 and its conclusions tested by investigating the oxidative behaviour of various additional layer-type transition metal compounds. It involves a hole mediated valence change of molybdenum with an intermediate formation of a 5-valent molybdenum hydroxide. A basic kinetical and energetical similarity is suggested with the function of manganese reaction centers in photosynthesis.

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A Journal of Physical Sciences: Zeitschrift für Naturforschung A (ZNA) is an international scientific journal which publishes original research papers from all areas of experimental and theoretical physics. In accordance with the name of the journal, which means “Journal for Natural Sciences”, manuscripts submitted to ZNA should have a tangible connection to actual physical phenomena.