Group Members

Surface Photovoltage Spectroscopy

Overall Water Splitting

Inorganic Synthesis



Frank Osterloh





Materials for Solar Energy Conversion


Research in the lab involves the preparation and characterization of inorganic (nano-) materials and their application to solar energy conversion and artificial photosynthesis. In one project we develop inorganic materials as photocatalysts for the overall water splitting reaction - a method to convert solar energy into hydrogen fuel. The project involves the preparation of inorganic particles with smooth facets and their modification with surface coatings and cocatalysts.




Why Solar Energy?

Solar energy is the only sustainable energy form on this planet that has the capacity to propel humanity into the 22 century. The goal of our research is to find inexpensive materials for solar energy conversion into fuel and electricity. These materials have the potential to replace polluting fossil fuels and to allow a transition to a 100% sustainable economy.

In another project we employ surface photovoltage spectroscopy for the characterization of photochemical charge separation in molecular, semiconducting polymeric, and inorganic light absorbers. The goal is to better understand photochemical charge generation and separation at interfaces. These results are relevant to the development of next generation photovoltaic cells and photocatalysts for the production of carbon-free fuels from solar energy.


As methods we use liquid-phase and solid-state syntheses, incl. hydrothermal synthesis, and film deposition methods, incl. spin- and drop-coating. For physical characterization we employ electron microscopy, powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, optical spectroscopy, electrochemistry, photoelectrochemistry, surface photovoltage spectroscopy, zeta-potential measurements, and gas chromatography for H2/O2 detection.


Our research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and from the Office of Basic Science of the US Department of Energy.


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1.         Zhao, J. and F.E. Osterloh, Photochemical Charge Separation in Nanocrystal Photocatalyst Films – Insights from Surface Photovoltage Spectroscopy. J. Phys. Chem. Lett, 2014, 5, 782–786. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jz500136h

2.         Wang, J. and F.E. Osterloh, Limiting Factors for Photochemical Charge Separation in BiVO4/Co3O4, a Highly Active Photocatalyst for Water Oxidation in Sunlight. J. Mater. Chem. A, 2014, 2, 9405-9411. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C4TA01654H

3.         Osterloh, F.E., M.A. Holmes, J. Zhao, L. Chang, S. Kawula, J.D. Roehling, and A.J. Moulé, P3HT:PCBM Bulk-Heterojunctions: Observing Interfacial and Charge Transfer States with Surface Photovoltage Spectroscopy. J. Phys. Chem. C, 2014, 118(27), 14723-14731. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jp500226u

4.         Dolyniuk, J.-A., D.C. Kaseman, S. Sen, J. Zhao, F.E. Osterloh, and K. Kovnir, mP-BaP3: A New Phase from an Old Binary System. Chemistry – A European Journal, 2014, 20(34), 10829-10837. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/chem.201305078

5.         Chamousis, R.L., L. Chang, W.J. Watterson, R.D. Montgomery, R.P. Taylor, A.J. Moule, S.E. Shaheen, B. Ilan, J. van de Lagemaat, and F.E. Osterloh, Effect of Fractal Silver Electrodes on Charge Collection and Light Distribution in Semiconducting Organic Polymer Films. J. Mater. Chem. A, 2014, 2(39), 16608-16616. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C4TA03204G

6.         Osterloh, F.E., M.A. Holmes, L. Chang, A.J. Moule, and J. Zhao, Photochemical Charge Separation in Poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) Films Observed with Surface Photovoltage Spectroscopy. J.Phys.Chem. C, 2013, 117(51), 26905–26913. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jp409262v

7.         Merdes, S., F. Osterloh, R. Sáez-Araoz, J. Klaer, R. Klenk, and T. Dittrich, Surface photovoltage analyses of Cu(In,Ga)S2/CdS and Cu(In,Ga)S2/In2S3 photovoltaic junctions. Appl. Phys. Lett., 2013, 102, 213902. http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4807889

8.         Townsend, T.K., N.D. Browning, and F.E. Osterloh, Overall Photocatalytic Water Splitting with NiOx-SrTiO3 - A Revised Mechanism. Energ & Env. Sci., 2012, 5(11), 9543-9550. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C2EE22665K

9.         Frame, F.A., T.K. Townsend, R.L. Chamousis, E.M. Sabio, T. Dittrich, N.D. Browning, and F.E. Osterloh, Photocatalytic Water Oxidation with Non-Sensitized IrO2 Nanocrystals under Visible and UV Light. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2011, 133(19), 7264–7267. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja200144w

10.       Kronik, L. and Y. Shapira, Surface Photovoltage Phenomena: Theory, Experiment, and Applications. Surf. Sci. Rep., 1999, 37(1-5), 1-206.

11.       Kronik, L. and Y. Shapira, Surface Photovoltage Spectroscopy of Semiconductor Structures: At the Crossroads of Physics, Chemistry and Electrical Engineering. Surf. Interface Anal., 2001, 31(10), 954-965. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/sia.1132