An enhanced photocatalytic response of nanometric TiO2 wrapping of Au nanoparticles for eco-friendly water applications
We propose a ground-breaking approach by an upside-down vision of the Au/TiO2 nano-system in order to obtain an enhanced photocatalytic response. The system was synthesized by wrapping Au nanoparticles (∼8 nm mean diameter) with a thin layer of TiO2 (∼4 nm thick). The novel idea of embedding Au nanoparticles with titanium dioxide takes advantage of the presence of metal nanoparticles, in terms of electron trapping, without losing any of the TiO2 exposed surface, so as to favor the photocatalytic performance of titanium dioxide. A complete structural characterization was made by scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction. The remarkable photocatalytic performance together with the stability of the nano-system was demonstrated by degradation of the methylene blue dye in water. The non-toxicity of the nano-system was established by testing the effect of the material on the reproductive cycle of Mytilus galloprovincialis in an aquatic environment. The originally synthesized material was also compared to conventional TiO2 with Au nanoparticles on top. The latter system showed a dispersion of Au nanoparticles in the liquid environment, due to their instability in the aqueous solution that clearly represents an environmental contamination issue. Thus, the results show that nanometric TiO2 wrapping of Au nanoparticles has great potential in eco-friendly water/wastewater purification.