Surfactant Effects on Hydrogen Evolution by Small-Molecule Nonfullerene Acceptor Nanoparticles

Andrew Dolan, Jessica M. De La Perrelle, Thomas D. Small, Emily R. Milsom, Gregory F. Metha, Xun Pan, Mats R. Andersson, David M. Huang, Tak W. Kee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Organic donor:acceptor semiconductor nanoparticles (NPs) formed through the miniemulsion method have been shown to be active photocatalysts. Here, we report photocatalytic hydrogen (H2) evolution under sacrificial conditions with Pt as a cocatalyst by NPs comprising only the nonfullerene acceptor Y6, stabilized by either sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) or the thiophene-containing surfactant 2-(3-thienyl)ethyloxybutylsulfonate sodium salt (TEBS). Typically, changes in the photocatalytic activity of donor:acceptor NPs are associated with differences in morphology due to the use of surfactants. However, as these NPs are single component, their photocatalytic activity has a significantly lower dependence on morphology than two-component donor:acceptor NPs. Results from ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy show a minor difference between the photophysics of the TEBS- and SDS-stabilized Y6 NPs, with free charges present with either surfactant. The similar photophysics suggest that both TEBS- and SDS-stabilized Y6 NPs would be expected to have similar rates of H2evolution. However, the results from photocatalysis show that Y6 NPs stabilized by TEBS have a H2evolution rate 21 times higher than that of the SDS-stabilized NPs under broadband solar-like illumination (400-900 nm). Transmission electron microscopy images of the Y6 NPs show effective photodeposition of Pt on the surface of the TEBS-stabilized NPs. In contrast, photodeposition of Pt is inhibited when SDS is used. Furthermore, the ζ potential of the NPs is higher in magnitude when SDS is present. Hence, we hypothesize that SDS forms a dense, insulating layer on the NP surface which hinders the photodeposition of Pt and reduces the rate of H2evolution. This insulating effect is absent for TEBS-stabilized Y6 NPs, allowing a high rate of H2evolution. The TEBS-stabilized Y6 NPs have a H2evolution rate higher than most single-component organic photocatalysts, signaling the potential use of the Y-series acceptors for H2evolution in Z-scheme photocatalysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12154-12164
Number of pages11
JournalACS Applied Nano Materials
Issue number9
Early online date23 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2022


  • hydrogen evolution
  • nanoparticles
  • nonfullerene acceptors
  • organic photocatalysis
  • organic semiconductors
  • photocatalysis
  • surfactants


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