Plasmonic ZnO/Ag Embedded Structures as Collecting Layers for Photogenerating Electrons in Solar Hydrogen Generation Photoelectrodes



A new fabrication strategy in which Ag plasmonics are embedded in the interface between ZnO nanorods and a conducting substrate is experimentally demonstrated using a femtosecond-laser (fs-laser)-induced plasmonic ZnO/Ag photoelectrodes. This fs-laser fabrication technique can be applied to generate patternable plasmonic nanostructures for improving their effectiveness in hydrogen generation. Plasmonic ZnO/Ag nanostructure photoelectrodes show an increase in the photocurrent of a ZnO nanorod photoelectrodes by higher than 85% at 0.5 V. Both localized surface plasmon resonance in metal nanoparticles and plasmon polaritons propagating at the metal/semiconductor interface are available for improving the capture of sunlight and collecting charge carriers. Furthermore, in-situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy is performed to monitor the plasmonic-generating electromagnetic field upon the interface between ZnO/Ag nanostructures. This can reveal induced vacancies on the conduction band of ZnO, which allow effective separation of charge carriers and improves the efficiency of hydrogen generation. Plasmon-induced effects enhance the photoresponse simultaneously, by improving optical absorbance and facilitating the separation of charge carriers.