Influence of Surface and Structural Variations in Donor–Acceptor–Donor Sensitizers on Photoelectrocatalytic Water Splitting

Abstract
Conjugated organic chromophores composed of linked donor (D) and acceptor (A) moieties have attracted considerable attention for photoelectrochemical applications. In this work, we compare the optoelectronic properties and photoelectrochemical performance of two D–A–D structural isomers with thiophene-X-carboxylic acid (X denotes 3 and 2 positions) derivatives and 2,1,3-benzothiadiazole as the D and A moieties, respectively. 5,5′-(Benzo[c][1,2,5]thiadiazole-4,7-diyl)bis(thiophene-3-carboxylic acid), BTD1, and 5,5′-(benzo[c][1,2,5]thiadiazole-4,7-diyl)bis(thiophene-2-carboxylic acid), BTD2, were employed in the study to understand how structural isomers affect surface attachments within chromophore–catalyst assemblies and their influence on charge-transfer dynamics. Crystal structures revealed that varying the position of the −COOH anchoring group causes the molecules to either contort out of a plane (BTD1) or adopt a near-perfect planar conformation (BTD2). BTD1 and BTD2 were co-loaded with either a water oxidation catalyst, [Ru(2,6-bis(1-methylbenzimidazol-2-yl)pyridine)-(4,4′-((HO)2OPCH2)2-2,2′-bipyridine)(OH2)]2RuCt2+, or proton reduction catalyst [Ni(P2PhN2C6H4CH2PO3H2)2]2+NiCt2+, on oxide electrodes to facilitate photodriven water splitting reactions. Emission quenching measurements indicate that both BTD1 and BTD2 inject electrons into n-type SnO2|TiO2 electrodes and holes into p-type NiO semiconductors from their respective excited states at high efficiencies >60%. Photocurrent densities of chromophore–catalyst assemblies obtained using linear sweep voltammetry (LSV) show that BTD2-sensitized photoanodes generate significantly more photocurrent than BTD1-sensitized electrodes; however, both exhibit similar performances at the photocathode. Photoelectrocatyltic measurements demonstrate that both BTD1 and BTD2 performed similarly, generating Faradaic efficiencies of 39 and 38% at the anode or 61 and 79% at the cathode. Transient absorption measurements suggest that the differences between the LSV and photoelectrocatalytic measurements result from the differences in quantum yields of the photogenerated redox equivalents, which is also a reflection of the varying metal oxide surface conformation. Our findings suggest that BTD2 should be investigated further in photocathodic studies since it has the structural advantage of being incorporated into diverse types of chromophore–catalyst assemblies.

Citation
Influence of Surface and Structural Variations in Donor–Acceptor–Donor Sensitizers on Photoelectrocatalytic Water Splitting Linda Nhon, Bing Shan, Aaron D. Taggart, Rylan M. W. Wolfe, Ting-Ting Li, Christina M. Klug, Animesh Nayak, R. Morris Bullock, James F. Cahoon, Thomas J. Meyer, Kirk S. Schanze, and John R. Reynolds ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2021 13 (40), 47499-47510 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.1c11879