Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is a popular photocatalyst used for many environmental and anti-pollution applications, but it normally operates under UV light, exploiting ∼5% of the solar spectrum. Nitrification of titania to form N-doped TiO2 has been explored as a way to increase its photocatalytic activity under visible light, and anionic doping is a promising method to enable TiO2 to harvest visible-light by changing its photo-absorption properties. In this paper, we explore the insertion of nitrogen into the TiO2 lattice using our green sol–gel nanosynthesis method, used to create 10 nm TiO2 NPs. Two parallel routes were studied to produce nitrogen-modified TiO2 nanoparticles (NPs), using HNO3+NH3 (acid-precipitated base-peptised) and NH4OH (totally base catalysed) as nitrogen sources. These NPs were thermally treated between 450 and 800 °C. Their true phase composition (crystalline and amorphous phases), as well as their micro-/nanostructure (crystalline domain shape, size and size distribution, edge and screw dislocation density) was fully characterised through advanced X-ray methods (Rietveld-reference intensity ratio, RIR, and whole powder pattern modelling, WPPM). As pollutants, nitrogen oxides (NOx) are of particular concern for human health, so the photocatalytic activity of the NPs was assessed by monitoring NOx abatement, using both solar and white-light (indoor artificial lighting), simulating outdoor and indoor environments, respectively. Results showed that the onset of the anatase-to-rutile phase transformation (ART) occurred at temperatures above 450 °C, and NPs heated to 450 °C possessed excellent photocatalytic activity (PCA) under visible white-light (indoor artificial lighting), with a PCA double than that of the standard P25 TiO2 NPs. However, higher thermal treatment temperatures were found to be detrimental for visible-light photocatalytic activity, due to the effects of four simultaneous occurrences: (i) loss of OH groups and water adsorbed on the photocatalyst surface; (ii) growth of crystalline domain sizes with decrease in specific surface area; (iii) onset and progress of the ART; (iv) the increasing instability of the nitrogen in the titania lattice.
Nitrogen-modified nano-titania: True phase composition, microstructure and visible-light induced photocatalytic NOx abatement / Tobaldi, D. M.; Pullar, R. C.; Gualtieri, A. F.; Otero-Iruruet, G.; Singh, M. K.; Seabra, M. P.; Labrincha, J. A.. - In: JOURNAL OF SOLID STATE CHEMISTRY. - ISSN 0022-4596. - 231:(2015), pp. 87-100. [10.1016/j.jssc.2015.08.008]