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MSc assignment "Hydrophobic treatment of NiO surfaces for boosting photoelectrochemical reduction'

MSc assignment ”Hydrophobic treatment of NiO surfaces for boosting photoelectrochemical reduction”

Daily supervisor: Kaijian Zhu


Photoelectrochemical proton reduction or CO2 reduction has drawn wide attention due to the opportunity to convert and store solar energy directly into renewable fuels. Among different types of photoelectrochemical cells, the dye-sensitized photoelectrode has become more and more important. The chemical structure of a molecular dye can be controlled precisely. Besides, dye-sensitized photoelectrodes allow to optimize each individual step during the reaction by separation of light absorption (dye), charge transport (n- or p-type semiconductor) and reaction (catalyst) into distinct photoelectrode components. 

Project description and goal

So far, n-type dye-sensitized photoelectrodes have shown much better performance than p-type ones. The overall efficiency of a p-n tandem device, which is composed of p-type and n-type electrodes and can work without any applied bias voltage, is limited by the lowest efficiency component.  This is the reason why we aim to boost the performance of p-type dye-sensitized photoelectrodes.

NiO is a commonly used semiconductor in p-type dye-sensitized photoelectrodes. Both literature and our recent results suggest the optimization of the NiO nanostructure is very important. We realized that Ni(OH)2, produced in neutral or basic conditions, is very important and may be the reason for fast charge carrier recombination. The aim of this research is to develop a hydrophobic coating on the NiO surface to prevent the formation of Ni(OH)2­ and study the photocatalytic performance and mechanisms by time-resolved spectroscopy.


- preparation and analysis of nanostructured semiconductor layers

- photoelectrochemical characterization

- photodynamical studies by femtosecond spectroscopy


1) Li, T.-T.; Shan, B.; Meyer, T. J. ACS Energy Lett. 2019, 4, 629-636.
2) Li, F.; Yang, H.; Li, W.; Sun, L . Joule 2018, 2, 36-60.

3) O'Reilly, L., Pan, Q., Das, N. Wenderich, K., Korterik, J.P. , Vos, J.G., Pryce, M.T. , Huijser, A., ChemPhysChem 2018, 19, 3084-3091.

For more information, contact: Kaijian Zhu, e-mail:; J.M. Huijser (Annemarie), e-mail: