Defect engineering of atomic layer deposited TiO2 for photocatalytic applications

Research output: Other conference contributionAbstractScientific


Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting is one of the potential methods of storing solar energy into chemical form as hydrogen. A major issue with the method and a challenge of renewable energy production is the development of efficient, chemically stable and cost-effective semiconductor photoelectrodes. Crystalline TiO2 as such is extremely stable and capable of unassisted photocatalytic water splitting but the efficiency is limited by the bandgap (3.0–3.2 eV) to harvest photons only in the UV range. Recently, otherwise unstable semiconductor materials that can harvest the full solar spectrum has been successfully stabilized by amorphous titanium dioxide (am.-TiO2) coatings grown by atomic layer deposition (ALD) [1]. However, the stability of am.-TiO2 without additional co-catalyst has remained unresolved [2].

In our recent studies, we have reported means to thermally modify the defect structure of ALD grown am.-TiO2 thin film under oxidative [3] and reductive [4] conditions. TiO2 films were grown on silicon and fused quartz substrates by ALD at 200 °C using tetrakis(dimethylamido)titanium (TDMAT) and deionized water as precursors. Based on the results, the as-deposited am.-TiO2 is chemically unstable and visually black exhibiting both enhanced absorbance in the visible range and exceptionally high conductivity due to the trapped charge carriers (Ti3+). Heat treatment in air at 200°C induces oxidation of Ti3+, decrease in absorb-ance and conductivity but has only a minor effect on the stability. However, a reasonable stability is obtained after oxidation at 300 °C, simultaneously with the crystallization of TiO2 into rutile. Furthermore, oxidation at 500 °C results in stable rutile TiO2 that produces the highest photocurrent for water oxidation. In contrast, reductive heat treatment in ultra-high vacuum (UHV) at 500 °C retains the amorphous phase for TiO2 but enhances the stability due to the formation of O– species via electron transfer from O to Ti. The schematic illustration of the effect of oxidative heat treatment on the defect structure of ALD TiO2 is shown in Figure 1.

As a conclusion, ALD TiO2 has proven its diversity. Conductive as-deposited black TiO2 is photoelectrochemically unstable but it can be transformed into stable phases of photocatalytically active rutile or electrically “leaky” amorphous black TiO2 by heat treatment in oxidative or reductive conditions, respectively.

1. S. Hu, M.R. Shaner, J.A. Beardslee, M. Lichterman, B.S. Brunschwig, N.S. Lewis, ”Amorphous TiO2 Coatings Stabilize Si, GaAs and GaP photoanodes for Efficient Water Oxidation”, Science 344, pp. 1005–1009, 2014
2. K. Sivula, ”Defects Give New Life to an Old Material: Electronically Leaky Titania as a Photoanode Protection Layer”, ChemCatChem 6, pp. 2796–2797, 2014
3. H. Ali-Löytty, M. Hannula, J. Saari, L. Palmolahti, B.D. Bhuskute, R. Ulkuniemi, T. Nyyssönen, K. Lahtonen, M. Valden, ”Diversity of TiO2: Controlling the Molecular and Electronic Structure of Atomic-Layer-Deposited Black TiO2”, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 11 (3), pp. 2758–2762, 2019
4. M. Hannula, H. Ali-Löytty, K. Lahtonen, E. Sarlin, J. Saari, M. Valden, ”Improved Stability of Atomic Layer De-posited Amorphous TiO2 Photoelectrode Coatings by Thermally Induced Oxygen Defects”, Chemistry of Materials 30 (4), pp. 1199–1208, 2018
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2019
Publication typeNot Eligible
EventOptics and Photonics Days 2019 - Espoo, Finland
Duration: 27 May 201929 May 2019


ConferenceOptics and Photonics Days 2019


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