Acta Phys. -Chim. Sin. ›› 2021, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (6): 2010017.doi: 10.3866/PKU.WHXB202010017

Special Issue: Design and Fabrication of Advanced Photocatalyst

• REVIEW • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Review of Z-Scheme Heterojunctions for Photocatalytic Energy Conversion

Dong Liu, Shengtao Chen, Renjie Li(), Tianyou Peng()   

  • Received:2020-10-11 Accepted:2020-11-16 Published:2020-11-26
  • Contact: Renjie Li,Tianyou Peng;
  • About author:Tianyou Peng, Email:; +86-27-68752237(T.P.)
    Renjie Li, Email: ; Tel.: +86-27-68752237(R.L.)
  • Supported by:
    the Natural Science Foundation of China(21975190);the Natural Science Foundation of China(21871215);the Natural Science Foundation of China(21631003);the Natural Science Foundation of China(21573166);the Science & Technology Planning Project of Shenzhen Municipality, China(JCYJ20180302153921190);Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province, China(BK20151247);the Funds for Creative Research Groups of Hubei Province, China(2014CFA007)


Inspired by the photosynthesis of green plants, various artificial photosynthetic systems have been proposed to solve the energy shortage and environmental problems. Water photosplitting, carbon dioxide photoreduction, and nitrogen photofixation are the main systems that are used to produce solar fuels such as hydrogen, methane, or ammonia. Although conducting artificial photosynthesis using man-made semiconducting materials is an ideal and potential approach to obtain solar energy, constructing an efficient photosynthetic system capable of producing solar fuels at a scale and cost that can compete with fossil fuels remains challenging. Therefore, exploiting the efficient and low-cost photocatalysts is crucial for boosting the three main photocatalytic processes (light-harvesting, surface/interface catalytic reactions, and charge generation and separation) of artificial photosynthetic systems. Among the various photocatalysts developed, the Z-scheme heterojunction composite system can increase the light-harvesting ability and remarkably suppress charge carrier recombination; it can also promote surface/interface catalytic reactions by preserving the strong reductive/oxidative capacity of the photoexcited electrons/holes, and therefore, it has attracted considerable attention. The continuing progress of Z-scheme nanostructured heterojunctions, which convert solar energy into chemical energy through photocatalytic processes, has witnessed the importance of these heterojunctions in further improving the overall efficiency of photocatalytic reaction systems for producing solar fuels. This review summarizes the progress of Z-scheme heterojunctions as photocatalysts and the advantages of using the direct Z-scheme heterojunctions over the traditional type Ⅱ, all-solid-state Z-schemel, and liquid-phase Z-scheme ones. The basic principle and corresponding mechanism of the two-step excitation are illustrated. In particular, applications of various types of Z-scheme nanostructured materials (inorganic, organic, and inorganic-organic hybrid materials) in photocatalytic energy conversion and different controlling/engineering strategies (such as extending the spectral absorption region, promoting charge transfer/separation and surface chemical modification) for enhancing the photocatalytic efficiency in the last five years are highlighted. Additionally, characterization methods (such as sacrificial reagent experiment, metal loading, radical trapping testing, in situ X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, photocatalytic reduction experiments, Kelvin probe force microscopy, surface photovoltage spectroscopy, transient absorption spectroscopy, and theoretical calculation) of the Z-scheme photocatalytic mechanism, and the assessment criteria and methods of the photocatalytic performance are discussed. Finally, the challenges associated with Z-scheme heterojunctions and the possible growing trend are presented. We believe that this review will provide a new understanding of the breakthrough direction of photocatalytic performance and provide guidance for designing and constructing novel Z-scheme photocatalysts.

Key words: Semiconductor, Photocatalysis, Z-scheme heterojunction, Energy conversion, Reaction mechanism