Protection Mechanism against Photocorrosion of GaN Photoanodes Provided by NiO Thin Layers


The photoelectrochemical properties of n-type Ga-polar GaN photoelectrodes covered with NiO layers of different thicknesses in the range 0–20 nm are investigated for aqueous solution. To obtain layers of well-defined thickness and high crystal quality, NiO is grown by plasma-assisted molecular-beam epitaxy. Stability tests reveal that the NiO layers suppress photocorrosion. With increasing NiO thickness, the onset of the photocurrent is shifted to more positive voltages and the photocurrent is reduced, especially for low bias potentials, indicating that hole transfer to the electrolyte interface is hindered by thicker NiO layers. Furthermore, cathodic transient spikes are observed under intermittent illumination, which hints at surface recombination processes. These results are inconsistent with the common explanation of the protection mechanism that the band alignment of GaN/NiO enables efficient hole-injection, thus preventing hole accumulation at the GaN surface that would lead to anodic photocorrosion. Interestingly, the morphology of the etch pits as well as further experiments involving the photodeposition of Ag indicate that photocorrosion of GaN photoanodes is related to reductive processes at threading dislocations. Therefore, it is concluded that the NiO layers block the transfer of photogenerated electrons from GaN to the electrolyte interface, which prevents the cathodic photocorrosion. © 2020 The Authors. Solar RRL published by Wiley-VCH GmbH

GaN, NiO, photoanodes, photoelectrochemistry
Kamimura, J., Budde, M., Bogdanoff, P., Tschammer, C., Abdi, F. F., van de Krol, R., et al. (2020). Protection Mechanism against Photocorrosion of GaN Photoanodes Provided by NiO Thin Layers (Version publishedVersion, Vol. 4). Version publishedVersion, Vol. 4. Weinheim : Wiley-VCH.