Group Members        

Surface Photovoltage Spectroscopy

Overall Water Splitting

Inorganic Synthesis



Virtual Reality

Science Outreach

Frank Osterloh

Chemistry Department




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.      Han, R., M.A. Melo Jr, Z. Zhao, Z. Wu, and F.E. Osterloh, Light Intensity Dependence of Photochemical Charge Separation in the BiVO4/Ru-SrTiO3:Rh Direct Contact Tandem Photocatalyst for Overall Water Splitting. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 2020. 124: p. 9724-9733. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpcc.0c00772

3.      Doughty, R.M., F.A. Chowdhury, Z. Mi, and F.E. Osterloh, Surface photovoltage spectroscopy observes junctions and carrier separation in gallium nitride nanowire arrays for overall water-splitting. The Journal of Chemical Physics, 2020. 153(14): p. 144707. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.00212734

4.      Zhao, Z., R.V. Goncalves, S.K. Barman, E.J. Willard, E. Byle, R. Perry, Z. Wu, M.N. Huda, A.J. Moulé, and F.E. Osterloh, Electronic structure basis for enhanced overall water splitting photocatalysis with aluminum doped SrTiO3 in natural sunlight. Energy & Environmental Science, 2019. 12: p. 1385-1395. https://doi.org/10.1039/C9EE00310J

5.      Osterloh, F.E., Chapter 7 Artificial Photosynthesis with Inorganic Particles, in Integrated Solar Fuel Generators. 2019, The Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 214-280, http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/9781788010313-00214

6.      Osterloh, F.E., Inorganic Nanostructures for Photoelectrochemical and Photocatalytic Water Splitting. Chem. Soc. Rev., 2013. 42(6): p. 2294-2320. https://doi.org/10.1039/c2cs35266d

3.      Osterloh, F.E., Inorganic Materials as Catalysts for Photochemical Splitting of Water. Chemistry of Materials, 2008. 20(1): p. 35-54. https://doi.org/10.1021/cm7024203