Epoxide-driven sol-gel methods to prepare metal oxide and sulfide materials for applications in heterogeneous photocatalysis



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Heterogeneous photocatalysis in the most general sense focuses on using light to power chemical reactions. By harnessing the inexhaustible energy source of sunlight these catalysts can perform various organic reactions, or they can sequester the energy of light, converting it to useful fuels such as hydrogen or hydrocarbons. One of the most explored areas of heterogeneous photocatalysis is utilizing inorganic semiconductors for air, soil, and water pollution remediation. Forty years have passed since the early works of inorganic photocatalytic semiconductors and while much knowledge has been gained, few techniques have shown commercial viability. Which, make no mistake, is the current direction of research in this area. For commercialization, new methods are necessary that generate robust, efficient, cost-effective photocatalysts that are amenable to modification. Herein, we target the following photocatalysts; ZnO-SnO2, BiOCl-Bi24O31Cl10, and CdS which have been recognized for distinct photocatalytic behavior but currently have limited, inflexible synthetic capabilities. Through a systematic investigation of the epoxide-directed sol-gel method, we are able to tune composition and morphology. These libraries of photocatalysts are then evaluated for photocatalytic activity, where we elucidate correlations between morphology and improved performance. Further investigation demonstrates the changes brought about by synthetic changes which can be incorporated in an as-needed fashion. The capability of this simple, bench-top chemistry method to tailor formation of various semiconductors make this method well-suited for industrial applications.



Sol-gel, Epoxide, Photocatalysis, Heterogeneous, Morphology