Nano-titania doped with europium and neodymium showing simultaneous photoluminescent and photocatalytic behaviour


Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanomaterials are attracting increasing interest, mostly because of their superior photocatalytic and antibacterial properties. In this work, we report the synthesis, by a "green'' aqueous sol-gel route, of TiO2 doped with Eu and Nd (1 and 5 mol%), in order to extend its photocatalytic activity to the visible range, and also take advantage of the luminescent features of the rare earth metals (REs). Gels were dried in an oven at 75 degrees C, and then thermally treated at 450 degrees C in a static air flow furnace. Semi-quantitative phase composition (QPA) and microstructure (crystalline domain shape and size distribution) of the synthetic powders were studied by means of advanced X-ray methods: Rietveld refinements, and the whole powder pattern modelling (WPPM) technique, respectively. From these X-ray techniques, it was seen that the unit cell volume of RE-modified titania underwent a huge expansion, thus suggesting the incorporation of RE into the TiO2 lattice, accompanied by a decrease in the average crystalline domain diameters of anatase, rutile and brookite. The optical properties were also investigated by diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS). Photoluminescent behaviour was assessed in the visible and near infra-red (NIR) spectral ranges. Photocatalytic activity of the samples was assessed both in liquid-solid and in gas-solid phases. The influence of the lighting conditions (UV- and visible-light exposure) was also taken into account for evaluating the photocatalytic activity. Nd-TiO2 was shown to be a bifunctional material, having both photocatalytic activity and NIR photoluminescent emission induced by the same excitation source, an unprecedented result.




Materials Science; Physics


Tobaldi, DM; Ferreira, RAS; Pullar, RC; Seabra, MP; Carlos, LD; Labrincha, JA

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D. M. Tobaldi is grateful to the ECO-SEE project (funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 609234. Note: The views expressed are purely those of the authors and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission). R. C. Pullar acknowledges the support of FCT grant SFRH/BPD/97115/2013. This work was developed in the scope of the project CICECO-Aveiro Institute of Materials (Ref. FCT UID/CTM/50011/2013), financed by national funds through the FCT/MEC and when applicable co-financed by FEDER under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement. M. Ferro and RNME - University of Aveiro, FCT Project REDE/1509/RME/2005 - are also acknowledged for HR-TEM analysis.

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