J Phys Chem C Nanomater Interfaces. 2023 Aug 7;127(32):15861-15870. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.3c04176. eCollection 2023 Aug 17.
Understanding the interface of plasmonic nanostructures is essential for improving the performance of photocatalysts. Surface defects in semiconductors modify the dynamics of charge carriers, which are not well understood yet. Here, we take advantage of scanning photoelectrochemical microscopy (SPECM) as a fast and effective tool for detecting the impact of surface defects on the photoactivity of plasmonic hybrid nanostructures. We evidenced a significant photoactivity activation of TiO2 ultrathin films under visible light upon mild reduction treatment. Through Au nanoparticle (NP) arrays deposited on different reduced TiO2 films, the plasmonic photoactivity mapping revealed the effect of interfacial defects on hot charge carriers, which quenched the plasmonic activity by (i) increasing the recombination rate between hot charge carriers and (ii) leaking electrons (injected and generated in TiO2) into the Au NPs. Our results show that the catalyst’s photoactivity depends on the concentration of surface defects and the population distribution of Au NPs. The present study unlocks the fast and simple detection of the surface engineering effect on the photocatalytic activity of plasmonic semiconductor systems.