Development of bismuth (oxy)sulfide-based materials for photocatalytic applications

  • Amal BaQais

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Technologies based on alternative and sustainable energy sources present a vital solution in the present and for the future. These technologies are strongly driven by the increased global energy demand and need to reduce environmental issues created by fossil fuel. Solar energy is an abundant, clean and free-access resource, but it requires harvesting and storage for a sustainable future. Direct conversion and storage of solar energy using heterogeneous photocatalysts have been identified as parts of a promising paradigm for generating green fuels from sunlight and water. This thesis focused on developing semiconductor absorbers in a visible light region for photocatalytic hydrogen production reaction. In addition, theoretical studies are combined with experimental results for a deep understanding of the intrinsic optoelectronic properties of the obtained materials. The study presents a novel family of oxysulfide BiAgOS, produced by applying a full substitution strategy of Cu by Ag in BiCuOS. I was interested to address how the total substitution of Cu by Ag in a BiCuOS system affects its crystal structure, optical and electronic properties using experimental characterizations and theoretical calculations. Single-phase bismuth silver oxysulfide BiAgOS was prepared via a hydrothermal method. Rietveld refinement of the powder confirmed that BiAgOS is an isostructural BiCuOS. The diffraction peak positions of BiAgOS, relative to those of BiCuOS, were shifted toward lower angles, indicating an increase in the cell parameters. BiCuOS and BiAgOS were found to have indirect bandgaps of 1.1 and 1.5 eV, respectively. The difference in the bandgap results from the difference in the valence band compositions. The hybrid level of the S and Ag orbitals in BiAgOS is located at a more positive potential than that of S and Cu, leading to a widened bandgap. Both materials possess high dielectric constants and low electron and hole effective masses, making them interesting for photoconversion applications. BiAgOS has a potential for photocatalytic hydrogen evolution reaction in the presence of sacrificial reagents; however, it is inactive toward water oxidation. BiCuOS and BiAgOS can be considered interesting starting compositions for the development of new semiconductors for PV or Z-scheme photocatalytic applications. The second study investigates the synthesis and characterization of NaBiS2, this contains Bi3+, which belongs to the p-block electronic configuration Bi3+ 6s26p0, and NaLaS2, which contains La3+ with electronic configuration 6s05d0. Solid-state reactions from oxide precursor starting materials were applied for synthesis the materials. The sulfurization process was conducted by pressurizing a saturated vapor of CS2. The obtained black material of NaBiS2 has an indirect transition with high absorption coefficients in the visible region of the spectrum and the absorption edge is determined at 1.21 eV. However, NaBiS2 did not show photocatalytic activity toward hydrogen production. NaLaS2 is characterized by an indirect transition with a bandgap in the UV region at 3.15 eV and can drive the photocatalytic hydrogen evolution reaction in Na2S/Na2SO3 solution. Utilizing the solid solution NaLa1-xBixS2 strategy, the absorption properties and band edge position for photocatalytic hydrogen evolution reaction were optimized. The results indicated that the bismuth content is critical parameter for maintaining the photocatalytic activity. The incorporation of low Bi content up to 6% in NaLaS2 leads to extending the photon absorption from the UV to the visible region and enhancing the photocatalytic activity of hydrogen production. In contrast, all the solid solutions that have Bi content of more than 12% present absorption edges close to that of pure NaBiS2, and they are inactive for photocatalytic hydrogen production. Combining the experimental measurements with density functional theory calculations, such behavior can be explained by the degree of overlapping of Bi and La states on the conduction band minimum (CBM). Finally, self-assembly of Bi2S3 nanorods were grown on FG or FTO substrates. Bi2S3 thin films were prepared by sulfurization of Bi metal layer using the hydrothermal method. The results show that Bi2S3 has absorption up to 1.3 eV and has a moderate absorption coefficient in the visible region. The ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy and photoelectron spectroscopy in air results showed that the conduction band minimum of Bi2S3 is located slightly above the hydrogen redox potential. However, Pt/Bi2S3 did not evolve a detectable amount of hydrogen, suggesting the presence of surface states that can hinder the hydrogen reduction reaction.
Date of AwardJan 7 2019
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Physical Science and Engineering
SupervisorKazuhiro Takanabe (Supervisor)


  • Solar energy
  • Photocatalysis
  • Photocatalytic hydrogen production
  • Semiconductor
  • Bandgap engineering
  • Solid solution

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