Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemistry

Advisor 1

Clemens Heske, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

David Hatchett

Second Committee Member

Dong-Chan Lee

Graduate Faculty Representative

James Selser

Number of Pages



Solar energy is the most sustainable source of energy available. However, solar applications such as photovoltaic cells represent only a partial solution to weaning our dependence upon fossil fuels. Several methods of storing solar energy are currently being pursued, and chemical storage stands out as a promising option - combining design simplicity with high energy density, with hydrogen being particularly attractive because of its abundance and inherently clean nature. A monolithic Photoelectrochemical (PEC) device that produces hydrogen by electrolyzing water directly from sunlight has the benefit of utilizing "free" solar energy to drive the reaction.

Although α-Fe 2 O 3 (hematite) is a strong candidate for PEC applications with a bandgap of 2.2 eV, its conduction band minimum is generally believed to be positioned below the H + /H 2 reduction potential necessary for its use as a water splitting material. Additionally, the low charge carrier mobility of hematite implies that charge carrier recombination needs to be overcome. Despite this, α-Fe 2 O 3 is cheap and abundant, nontoxic and easily synthesized. Furthermore, several studies have shown that this material is particularly receptive to both n- and p-type doping - a solution that may address both the band edge position and charge mobility issues.

This thesis describes X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) conducted at UNLV, Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) imaging performed by Dr. Asanga Ranasinghe (also UNLV), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) characterization by Arnold Forman and Alan Kleiman-Shwarsctein at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and the synthesis process of α-Fe 2 O 3 samples grown by our collaborators Arnold Forman, Alan Kleiman-Shwarsctein, and Dr. Eric McFarland at UCSB. We describe the synthesis process and report our observations of Ti diffusion through the Ti/Pt substrate interface and of Fe 2 O 3 island growth due to high calcination temperatures. Furthermore, we identify contaminants incorporated into the samples, and correlate these findings with PEC sample performance.


Energy storage; Hematite; Hydrogen production; Iron oxide; PEC; Photoelectrochemical hydrogen production; Platinum; Solar energy; Titanium; Water


Oil, Gas, and Energy | Physical Chemistry

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit