Impact of different electrolytes on photocatalytic water splitting

Samuel Crawford, Elijah Thimsen, Pratim Biswas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Despite extensive research in photocatalytic water splitting, electrolyte usage varies greatly across different photocells. Photocatalytic water splitting continues to be performed in a wide range of electrolytes, from very acidic to very basic, with incomplete understanding of how the electrolyte composition affects performance. This study provides guidelines for electrolyte selection in water splitting applications. To determine properties that comprise an ideal electrolyte for photocatalytic electrolysis, the effects of several parameters were studied: pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and composition. The photoactive anode was a nanostructured thin TiO2 film synthesized by a flame aerosol process. The photocatalytic conversion efficiency increased with both pH and conductivity, but changes in dissolved oxygen levels had no discernible effect. The electrolyte composition was adjusted using selected salts and bases. Although the effect of the cation was negligible, anions were found to reduce efficiencies if their oxidation potential makes them thermodynamically favored over water molecules for oxidation. The results of these studies were applied in an analysis of the prospects for splitting seawater to produce hydrogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H346-H351
JournalJournal of the Electrochemical Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Electrochemistry
  • Materials Chemistry


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