Chalcogenide Materials for Renewable Energy Applications
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In the effort to reduce dependence on non-renewable energy resources, photovoltaics (PV) have long been an attractive and plausible alternative. Silicon-based PV dominates the industry, but the scientific community continues to investigate alternate materials and processes to bring down the cost per Watt for installed solar. One of the areas of research explored in this thesis is non-silicon based PV with a focus on non-toxic, earth abundant nanomaterials. First, two iron-based chalcogenides are synthesized and characterized, but fail to perform well enough for real PV device testing. The reason for this non-performance is investigated and is likely due to sulfur-vacancies in the material. Staying within the chalcogenide family, WSe2 is next investigated for PV applications but it too suffers from inherent issues that prevent its use as an absorber material in solid-state solar cells. Finally, the dual polytypes of WSe2 are exploited for electrocatalytic water splitting and H2 gas generation applications. Moving away from precious-metal catalysts for water splitting and from traditional steam reforming for H2 generation can increase the production of H2 while limiting the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.