Solar to Chemical Energy Conversion with Photocatalytic Heterostructures made of Earth Abundant Materials

Cu2ZnSnS4 (CZTS) is one of the most promising materials for solar energy harvesting. Made of highly abundant, widely distributed and relatively biocompatible elements, and with a direct band gap of 1.5 eV, CZTS is an affordable, greener and more sustainable alternative to other semiconductors such as GaAs, CdTe, CuInS2 (CIS), or CuInxGa1-xSe2 (CIGS). We recently synthesized anisotropic CZTS nanostructures and showed we can use chemical precursor reactivity to affect their morphology and purposely induce or suppress phase segregation. Anisotropy is desirable for applications that rely on efficient charge carrier mobility across grain boundaries, as well as on the ability to suppress electron-hole pair recombination, such as in photovoltaic cells and photocatalytic devices. The student in this Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) will work on activating anisotropic CZTS nanostructures toward photocatalysis via metal deposition, and on using the resulting hybrids in sunlight-driven conversion of CO2 and biomass-relevant substrates.

Program mentor: Javier Vela, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Iowa State University