A full-spectrum photocatalyst with strong near-infrared photoactivity derived from synergy of nano-heterostructured Er3+-doped multi-phase oxides†
The development of full-spectrum photocatalysts active in the near-infrared (NIR) region has gained increasing attention in the photodegradation of organic pollutants. Herein, we designed a full-spectrum photocatalyst with strong NIR photoactivity based on the synergy of Er3+-doped ZnO-CuO-ZnAl2O4 multi-phase oxides (Er3+-doped Zn/Cu/Al-MPO) via the formation of n–p–n double heterojunctions. The photocatalyst was prepared by synthesizing nanosheets of a Zn/Cu/Al/Er hydrotalcite-like compound (Zn/Cu/Al/Er-HLC) with a co-precipitation method followed by calcination of the nanosheets at 800 °C. The as-prepared Er3+-doped Zn/Cu/Al-MPO inherits the nanosheet morphology of Zn/Cu/Al/Er-HLC, and displays over-doubled photoactivity in the entire ultraviolet (UV), visible and NIR regions compared to undoped Zn/Cu/Al-MPO. The excellent photocatalytic activity of Er3+-doped Zn/Cu/Al-MPO, especially its strong NIR photoactivity, is ascribed to its Er3+-doped CuO-involved multi-crystalline phase heterostructure, i.e., n–p–n double heterojunctions, which does not only offer an enhanced NIR absorption but also promotes the separation of photogenerated charge carriers. Importantly, the synergy of all the parts of the n–p–n double heterojuctions plays an important role in interface band structure regulation for the enhancement of the photocatalytic properties of Er3+-doped Zn/Cu/Al-MPO. This work has demonstrated the feasibility of utilizing hydrotalcite-like precursors in the design of full-spectrum photocatalysts active in the NIR region.