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Research Article

Bifunctional noble-metal-free cocatalyst coating enabling better coupling of photocatalytic CO2 reduction and H2O oxidation on direct Z-scheme heterojunction

Wei Zhao1,4,§Weihao Mo1,5,§Yan Zhang1,§Lingxuan Hu1Yiyi Zheng1Zhulei Chen1Xiangyue Niu1Yuling Zhao1Lichun Liu2( )Shuxian Zhong3( )Song Bai1( )
Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Education for Advanced Catalysis Materials, College of Chemistry and Materials Science, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua 321004, China
College of Biological, Chemical Sciences and Engineering and Nanotechnology Research Institute, Jiaxing University, Jiaxing 314001, China
College of Geography and Environmental Sciences, Zhejiang Normal University, Jinhua 321004, China
College of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
School of Biological and Chemical Engineering, Panzhihua University, Panzhihua 617000, China

§ Wei Zhao, Weihao Mo, and Yan Zhang contributed equally to this work.

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Graphical Abstract

A bifunctional Ni(OH)2 cocatalyst coating strategy is developed for better coupling of CO2 reduction and H2O oxidation on direct Z-scheme Cu2O/Fe2O3 heterojunction. The Ni(OH)2 lying on the Cu2O and Fe2O3 surface not only separately co-catalyzes the CO2-to-CO reduction and H2O-to-O2 oxidation in lower energy barriers, but also suppresses the side H2 evolution and component detachment, contributing to significantly improved photocatalytic activity, selectivity, and stability.


Selective loading of spatially separated redox cocatalysts on direct Z-scheme heterojunctions holds great promise for advancing the efficiency of artificial photosynthesis, which however is limited to the photodeposition of noble metal cocatalysts and the fabrication of hollow double-shelled semiconductor heterojunctions. Moreover, the co-exposure of discrete cocatalyst and semiconductor increases the product diversity when both the exposed sites of which participate in CO2 photoreduction. Herein, we present a facile and versatile protocol to overcome these limitations via surface coating of Z-scheme heterojunctions with bifunctional noble-metal-free cocatalysts. With Cu2O/Fe2O3 (CF) as a model heterojunction and layered Ni(OH)2 as a model cocatalyst, it is found that Ni(OH)2 lying on the surfaces of Cu2O and Fe2O3 separately co-catalyzes the CO2 reduction and H2O oxidation. Thorough experimental and theoretical investigation reveals that the Ni(OH)2 outer layer: (i) mitigates the charge recombination in CF and balances their transfer and consumption; (ii) reduces the rate-determining barriers for CO2-to-CO and H2O-to-O2 conversion, (iii) suppresses the side proton reduction occurring on CF, and (iv) protects the CF from component detachment. As expected, the redox reactions stoichiometrically proceed, and significantly enhanced photocatalytic activity, selectivity, and stability in CO generation are achieved by the stacked Cu2O/Fe2O3@Ni(OH)2 in contrast to CF. This study demonstrates the significance of the synergy between bifunctional cocatalysts and Z-scheme heterojunctions for improving the efficacy of overall redox reactions, opening a fresh avenue for the rational design of artificial photosynthetic systems.

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Nano Research
Pages 5022-5030
Cite this article:
Zhao W, Mo W, Zhang Y, et al. Bifunctional noble-metal-free cocatalyst coating enabling better coupling of photocatalytic CO2 reduction and H2O oxidation on direct Z-scheme heterojunction. Nano Research, 2024, 17(6): 5022-5030.






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Received: 12 December 2023
Revised: 16 January 2024
Accepted: 24 January 2024
Published: 02 March 2024
© Tsinghua University Press 2024