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Atomic Force Microscopy for Solar Fuels Research: An Introductory Review

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Although research on solar fuel production via water oxidation, hydrogen evolution, and carbon dioxide reduction (i.e., artificial photosynthesis) has grown tremendously in recent years, practical solar fuel devices remain elusive. For these multi-electron transfer processes to take place efficiently, integrated systems constructed from materials with very different chemical, mechanical, and electrical properties are required. This complicated integration presents numerous challenges, including the need for increased characterization of material surfaces and interfaces for both fundamental studies and device optimization. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a powerful tool for surface and interface analysis. Although solar fuel research has frequently utilized the basic AFM function of topographic mapping for routine surface analysis, some researchers have avoided more advanced AFM methodologies due to the complexity of these integrated solar fuel generating systems. This article provides researchers in this area with an introduction to various advanced AFM techniques for mechanical, electrical, and chemical analysis on the nanoscale. It also discusses the possibility of in situ study while providing an outline of the working principles of different AFM application modes.


Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: December 1, 2015

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  • ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT FOCUS is a multidisciplinary peer-reviewed international research journal consolidating research activities in all experimental and theoretical aspects of energy and environment with an interdisciplinary approach. The research topics include the preparation and characterization of advanced functional materials and their utilization in various energy and environmental applications, to name a few; fuel cells, batteries, solar cells, light emitting diodes, solar cells, optoelectronic devices, thermoelectric, clean energy, bio-fuels and bio-refineries, supercapacitors, hydrogen energy (storage and generation), geothermal energy, nanogenerators, self-powered devices and systems, catalysis, biomass and bioenergy, static and dynamic energy conversion; energy efficiency and management, nuclear energy, fossil fuels, geothermal, wind energy, electrolysis, and photothermal devices, environmental science and technology (environmental chemistry, physics biology and engineering) including climate change, greenhouse gases and global warming, ecology, environmental toxicology, industrial wastewater and sewage treatment, geosciences, atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic environments, pollution and environmental control, hazardous substances, radioactive contamination, noise pollution, effects of air, water, and soil contaminations on human health, environmental public health policies, soil environmental management and technologies, environmental policies, rules and regulations, conservation of natural resources, and all aspects of theoretical modeling related with energy and environment.
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