Development of Graphitic Carbon Nitride based Semiconductor Photocatalysts for Organic Pollutant Degradation

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: As a potential solution to the global energy and environmental pollution, design and synthesis of artificial photocatalysts with high activities have attracted increasing scientific interests worldwide. In recent years, the graphitic carbon nitride (g-C3N4) has shown new possible applications in the photocatalytic field due to its unique properties. However, the photocatalytic efficiency of the pristine g-C3N4 is greatly limited by the high recombination rate of the photo-induced electron-hole pairs. In this thesis, the aim is to design and fabricate efficient g-C3N4 based photocatalysts with enhanced photocatalytic activities under a visible light irradiation.In order to achieve this goal, two strategies have been employed in the present thesis. First, the as-obtained g-C3N4 was used as the host material to construct staggered-aligned composite photocatalysts by selecting semiconductors with suitable band positions. By this method, three kinds of g-C3N4-based composite photocatalysts such as g-C3N4/ZnS nanocage, g-C3N4/m-Ag2Mo2O7 and g-C3N4/MIL-88A were successfully fabricated. Second, the microstructure of the g-C3N4 was modified by the H2O2-treatment at an elevated temperature and ambient pressure.In this study, the g-C3N4 was prepared by a simple pyrolysis of urea. As for all the as-synthesized phtocatalysts, the structures, morphologies and the optical properties were carefully characterized by the following techniques: XRD, SEM, TEM, FT-IR and DRS. Also, the band edge positions of m-Ag2Mo2O7 and MIL-88A were studied by the Mott-Schottky methods. Thereafter, the photocatalytic activities were evaluated by using a solution of rhodamine B (RhB) as a target pollutant for the photodegradation experiments performed under a visible light irradiation. The results showed that all the aforementioned g-C3N4-based photocatalysts exhibited enhanced photocatalytic activities in comparison with the pristine g-C3N4. For the case of the g-C3N4-based composite photocatalysts, the enhancement factor over the pristine g-C3N4 can achieve values ranging from 2.6 to 3.4. As for the H2O2-treated g-C3N4, the degradation rate constant can be 4.6 times higher than that of the pristine g-C3N4.To understand the key factors in new materials design, we also devote a lot of efforts to elucidate the basic mechanisms during the photocatalytic degradation of organic pollutant. Based on the results of the active species trapping (AST) experiments, the main active species in each photocatalytic system were determined. In the g-C3N4/m-Ag2Mo2O7 and the g-C3N4/MIL-88A system, three kinds of active species of ·O2-, h+ and ·OH were found to be involved in the photocatalytic reaction. Among them, the ·O2- and h+ were the main active species. In the g-C3N4/ZnS and H2O2-treated g-C3N4 photocatalytic systems, the main active species was determined as the ·O2-. The reaction pathways of these active species were also demonstrated by comparing the band edge positions with the potentials of the redox couple. In addition, the relationship between the active species and the photocatalytic behaviors of N-de-ethylation and conjugated structure cleavage were studied. Finally, possible mechanisms to explain the enhanced photocatalytic activities were proposed for each photocatalytic system.The results in this thesis clearly confirm that the photocatalytic activity of the g-C3N4 based photocatalyst can efficiently be enhanced by constructions of staggered-aligned composites and by modification of the microstructure of the g-C3N4. The enhanced photocatalytic performance can mainly be ascribed to the efficient separation of the photo-induced electron-hole pairs and the increase of the active sites for the photocatalytic reaction.