Identifying Charge Transfer Mechanisms across Semiconductor Heterostructures via Surface Dipole Modulation and Multiscale Modeling

Ryan T. Pekarek, Kara Kearney, Benjamin M. Simon, Elif Ertekin, Angus Rockett, Michael J. Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The design and fabrication of stable and efficient photoelectrochemical devices requires the use of multifunctional structures with complex heterojunctions composed of semiconducting, protecting, and catalytic layers. Understanding charge transport across such devices is challenging due to the interplay of bulk and interfacial properties. In this work, we analyze hole transfer across n-Si(111)-R|TiO2 photoanodes where -R is a series of mixed aryl/methyl monolayers containing an increasing number of methoxy units (mono, di, and tri). In the dimethoxy case, triethylene glycol units were also appended to substantially enhance the dipolar character of the surface. We find that hole transport is limited at the n-Si(111)-R|TiO2 interface and occurs by two processes - thermionic emission and/or intraband tunneling - where the interplay between them is regulated by the interfacial molecular dipole. This was determined by characterizing the photoanode experimentally (X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, voltammetry, impedance) with increasingly thick TiO2 films and complementing the characterization with a multiscale computational approach (first-principles density functional theory (DFT) and finite-element device modeling). The tested theoretical model that successfully distinguished thermionic emission and intraband tunneling was then used to predict the effect of solution potential on charge transport. This prediction was then experimentally validated using a series of nonaqueous redox couples (ferrocence derivatives spanning 800 mV). As a result, this work provides a fundamental understanding of charge transport across TiO2-protected electrodes, a widely used semiconductor passivation scheme, and demonstrates the predictive capability of the combined DFT/device-modeling approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13223-13232
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number41
StatePublished - Oct 17 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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