Cobalt Porphyrin-Polypyridyl Surface Coatings for Photoelectrosynthetic Hydrogen Production

A. M. Beiler, D. Khusnutdinova, B. L. Wadsworth, Gary Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Hybrid materials that link light capture and conversion technologies with the ability to drive reductive chemical transformations are attractive as components in photoelectrosynthetic cells. We show that thin-film polypyridine surface coatings provide a molecular interface to assemble cobalt porphyrin catalysts for hydrogen evolution onto a visible-light-absorbing p-type gallium phosphide semiconductor. Spectroscopic techniques, including grazing angle attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, confirm that the cobalt centers of the porphyrin macrocycles coordinate to pyridyl nitrogen sites of the organic surface coating. The cobalt porphyrin surface concentration and fraction of pyridyl sites coordinated to a cobalt center are quantified using complementary methods of ellipsometry, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. In aqueous solutions under simulated solar illumination the modified cathode is photochemically active for hydrogen production, generating the product gas with near-unity Faradaic efficiency at a rate of ≈10 μL min-1 cm-2 when studied in a three-electrode configuration and polarized at the equilibrium potential of the H+/H2 couple. This equates to a photoelectrochemical hydrogen evolution reaction activity of 17.6 H2 molecules s-1 Co-1, the highest value reported to date for a molecular-modified semiconductor. Key features of the functionalized photocathode include (1) the relative ease of synthetic preparation made possible by application of an organic surface coating that provides molecular recognition sites for immobilizing the cobalt porphyrin complexes at the semiconductor surface and (2) the use of visible light to drive cathodic fuel-forming reactions in aqueous solutions with no added organic acids or sacrificial chemical reductants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12178-12185
Number of pages8
JournalInorganic chemistry
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 16 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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