Template-free synthesis of novel, highly-ordered 3D hierarchical Nb3O7(OH) superstructures with semiconductive and photoactive properties†
3D hierarchical Nb3O7(OH) mesocrystals can be formed by self-organization from nanometer sized building blocks. The present study focuses on the synthesis and detailed investigation of mesocrystals, which can be achieved from a one-step, template-free hydrothermal synthesis approach. The obtained cubic superstructures consist of a periodic nanowire-network and combine a large surface area, high crystallinity, with a band gap of 3.2 eV and photocatalytic activity. Their easy processability in combination with the named excellent properties makes them promising candidates for a large number of applications. These include photochemical and photophysical devices where the Nb3O7(OH) mesocrystals can be used as electrode material since they are semiconducting and possess a large surface area. Generally the forces involved in the self-organized formation of mesocrystals are not fully understood. In this regard, the assembly of the Nb3O7(OH) mesocrystals was investigated in-depth applying transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, UV/Vis measurements and electron energy-loss spectroscopy. Based on the achieved results a formation mechanisms is proposed, which expands the number of mechanisms for mesocrystal formation reported in literature. In addition, our study reveals different types of nanowire junctions and investigates their role at the stabilization of the networks.