Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Engineering

Advisor(s)

S. Keith Holland

David J. Lawrence

Abstract

Hydrogen gas produced from the photoelectrochemical (PEC) decomposition of water, using sunlight as an energy source, is a promising approach for sustainable fuel production. This decomposition of water is also called artificial photosynthesis. A device that accomplished this process is sometimes call an artificial leaf, which mimics nature inasmuch as it stores solar energy as a chemical fuel (e.g., hydrogen) by splitting water, in this way imitating natural photosynthesis. In 2009, Dr. Keith Holland and Dr. David Lawrence of James Madison University (JMU) initiated a research program to investigate materials for the photoelectrochemical decomposition of water into hydrogen and oxygen, which is a critical component of the artificial leaf concept for the production of solar derived fuels. Significant research is still required to develop the efficient and low-cost semiconducting photocatalyst materials required for PEC water decomposition. Recently, bismuth vanadate, BiVO4, has been identified as a potential low-cost and stable semiconducting oxide for the photooxidation of water. While numerous studies regarding the PEC performance of BiVO4 have been reported in existing literature, few studies about manufacturing variability have been reported. Variability in the performance of the photoanodes has been observed during previous studies at James Madison University. This study investigates one potential cause of variability in the manufacturing process- slight variations in the Bi:V ratio in precursor solutions used to fabricate the thin-film photoanodes. Small and controlled variations in the precursor solutions during the manufacturing process were observed to produce no significant effect on the PEC performance.

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