Influence of sodium halides (NaF, NaCl, NaBr, NaI) on the photocatalytic performance of hydrothermally synthesized hematite photoanodes

Tsinghai Wang, Mao Chia Huang, Yi Kong Hsieh, Wen Sheng Chang, Jing Chie Lin, Chih Hao Lee, Chu Fang Wang

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25 Scopus citations


It has been suggested that a high concentration of Fe3+ in solution, a low pH, and noncomplexing ions of high ionic strength are all essential for developing a high-quality hematite array. Our curiosity was piqued regarding the role of the electrolyte ions in the hydrothermal synthesis of hematite photoanodes. In this study, we prepared hematite photoanodes hydrothermally from precursor solutions of 0.1 M FeCl3 at pH 1.55 with a background electrolyte of 1.0 M sodium halide (NaF, NaCl, NaBr, or NaI). We compared the structures and properties of the as-obtained hematite photoanodes with those of the material prepared in 1.0 M NaNO3, the most widely adopted electrolyte in previous studies. Among our studied systems, we found that the hematite photoanode prepared in NaCl solution was the only one possessing properties similar to those of the sample obtained from the NaNO3 solution-most importantly in terms of photoelectrochemical performance (ca. 0.2 mA/cm2 with +0.4 V vs SCE). The hematites obtained from the NaF, NaBr, and NaI solutions exhibited much lower (by approximately 2 orders of magnitude) photocurrent densities under the same conditions, possibly because of their relatively less ordered crystallinity and the absence of rodlike morphologies. Because the synthetic protocol was identical in each case, we believe that these two distinct features reflect the environments in which these hematite photoanodes were formed. Consistent with the latest studies reported in the literature of the X-ray photoelectron spectra of fast-frozen hematite colloids in aqueous solutions, it appears that the degree of surface ion loading at the electrolyte-hematite interface (Stern layer) is critical during the development of hematite photoanodes. We suspect that a lower ion surface loading benefits the hematite developing relatively higher-order and a rodlike texture, thereby improving the photoelectrochemical activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7937-7949
Number of pages13
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number16
StatePublished - 28 Aug 2013


  • electric double layer
  • halide
  • hematite
  • photoanode
  • photoelectrochemical cell


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