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Defect-Mediated Electron-Hole Separation in One-Unit-Cell ZnIn2S4 Layers for Boosted Solar-Driven CO2 Reduction
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 139(22):7586-7594 Jun 2017

Jiao, Xingchen; Chen, Zongwei; Li, Xiaodong; Sun, Yongfu; Gao, Shan; Yan, Wensheng; Wang, Chengming; Zhang, Qun; Lin, Yue; Luo, Yi; Xie, Yi

The effect of defects on electron–hole separation is not always clear and is sometimes contradictory. Herein, we initially built clear models of two-dimensional atomic layers with tunable defect concentrations, and hence directly disclose the defect type and distribution at atomic level. As a prototype, defective one-unit-cell ZnIn2S4 atomic layers are successfully synthesized for the first time. Aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy directly manifests their distinct zinc vacancy concentrations, confirmed by positron annihilation spectrometry and electron spin resonance analysis. Density-functional calculations reveal that the presence of zinc vacancies ensures higher charge density and efficient carrier transport, verified by ultrafast photogenerated electron transfer time of ∼15 ps from the conduction band of ZnIn2S4 to the trap states. Ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy manifests the higher zinc vacancy concentration that allows for ∼1.7-fold increase in average recovery lifetime, confirmed by surface photovoltage spectroscopy and PL spectroscopy analysis, which ensures promoted carrier separation rates. As a result, the one-unit-cell ZnIn2S4 layers with rich zinc vacancies exhibit a carbon monoxide formation rate of 33.2 μmol g–1 h–1, roughly 3.6 times higher than that of the one-unit-cell ZnIn2S4 layers with poor zinc vacancies, while the former’s photocatalytic activity shows negligible loss after 24 h photocatalysis. This present work uncovers the role of defects in affecting electron–hole separation at atomic level, opening new opportunities for achieving highly efficient solar CO2 reduction performances.

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