ENGINEERING HDR SEMINAR SERIES (34/2015): Development of High-Performance Visible Active Nano-Photocatalysts for Sustainable Photoelectrocatalytic Hydrogen Production from Water Splitting

Mr. Zhu Tao

Date: 2015-07-14
Time: 10:00 to 11:00
Venue: Engineering Meeting Room 1, 5-4-22


Abundant and economical energy resource is the lifeblood of modern civilisations. Currently, oil, coal and natural gas are collectively supplying more than 85% of the world’s energy supply in year 2012. It was forecasted that these hydrocarbon fuels might not be lasted for another century to come. Thus, it is inevitable to call for a transition towards the utilisation of renewable and sustainable energy resources. Among all, hydrogen (H2) is a green and renewable energy resource as the final combustion by-products are water and heat with no environmental-deleterious greenhouse gases (GHGs) effect. However, the future of H2 economy is dependent on the availability of a low-cost and environmentally friendly source of H2, as almost 96% of current H2 source is produced from the combustion of expensive hydrocarbon fuels that is not economically and environmentally sustainable in long-term. The main aim of this research is to synthesize high-performance visible-light active nanostructured tungsten trioxide (WO3) thin films on photoelectrodes for improved H2 generation from photoelectrochemical (PEC) water molecules splitting reaction. The abundant solar energy will be harnessed by the nanostructured WO3 thin films on photoelectrode, as cost-effective and sustainable conversion energy to electrolyse water molecules into H2 and O2 in a conventional three-electrode PEC cell. Further physical and chemical modifications such as artificially-synthesized interfacial phase junction, chemical co-catalyst and metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) heterojunction structure will be performed to enhance the photocurrent responses of the bare nanostructured WO3 thin films. All these are to promote the effective charge separation of photo-generated carriers at molecular level and thus, enhancing the overall quantum efficiency of PEC water splitting reaction. As up to the current stage of research, we have attained a maximum photocurrent density of 120μA/cm2 through the response surface methodology (RSM) optimisation approach. The photocurrent response of the bare nanostructured WO3 thin films are still comparatively low when benchmarked against the literature reported range of 0.08 - 4mA/cm2. Thus, the on-going challenge in this proposed research is to design nanostructured WO3 thin films with high-energy conversion efficiency that could effectively utilise into the solar spectrum to generate H2 from PEC water splitting process.

About the Speaker

Mr. Zhu Tao received his Bachelor degree from the College of Resources and Environmental Engineering, Wuhan University of Technology (China) in year 2008. Thereafter, he pursued and graduated with a Master degree in Chemical Engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology (China) in year 2011.  Before joining Monash University Malaysia, he worked as a R&D and Process Engineer in two national photoelectric corporations in China, respectively. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD degree under the supervision of Dr Chong Meng Nan and A/Prof Chan Eng Seng in Chemical Engineering Discipline, School of Engineering, Monash University Malaysia. His research interests are mainly focused on the electrochemical synthesis and modification of tungsten trioxide (WO3) as an efficient semiconductor photocatalyst for hydrogen production from water splitting reaction.