Thin carbon layer coated Ti3+-TiO2 nanocrystallites for visible-light driven photocatalysis†
Black TiO2 containing Ti3+ attracts enormous attention due to its excellent visible-light driven photocatalytic activity. Herein, an in situ thermal decomposition approach to synthesize uniform thin carbon coated Ti3+-TiO2 nanocrystals is presented. During the oleic acid-assisted solvothermal process, the crystal size and morphology of TiO2 were controlled through oleic acid with carboxylic acid groups. Then the residual small quantities of oleic acid anchored on TiO2 were used as a carbon source, which could be in situ pyrolyzed into a carbon layer on TiO2 at high temperature and under an inert atmosphere. Meanwhile, Ti4+ species were partly reduced into Ti3+ states/oxygen vacancies on the surface of TiO2 due to the carbothermal reduction reaction for the carbon-encapsulated Ti3+-TiO2 structure. A series of characterizations indicated that the 20–25 nm TiO2 nanocrystals obtained were wrapped evenly by 1–2 nm carbon layers, which had an important effect on the energy band structure change of TiO2. The presence of the carbon layer also improves the Ti3+ stability and the conduction behavior of the composites. The Ti3+ states/oxygen vacancies created on the surface of TiO2 were responsible for the remarkable photogenerated charge separation and extended visible-light absorption range. Furthermore, Ti3+ states/oxygen vacancies and the carbon layer together could enhance the adsorption ability of O2 so as to promote the photogenerated electrons captured by the adsorbed O2, leading to a great increase in the charge separation. As a result, the composites exhibit high photocatalytic performance for organic pollutants under visible light irradiation. This simple and new method may pave the way to practical applications for efficient photocatalytic degradation under visible light.