Zinc oxide based photocatalysis: tailoring surface-bulk structure and related interfacial charge carrier dynamics for better environmental applications
As an alternative to the gold standard TiO2 photocatalyst, the use of zinc oxide (ZnO) as a robust candidate for wastewater treatment is widespread due to its similarity in charge carrier dynamics upon bandgap excitation and the generation of reactive oxygen species in aqueous suspensions with TiO2. However, the large bandgap of ZnO, the massive charge carrier recombination, and the photoinduced corrosion–dissolution at extreme pH conditions, together with the formation of inert Zn(OH)2 during photocatalytic reactions act as barriers for its extensive applicability. To this end, research has been intensified to improve the performance of ZnO by tailoring its surface-bulk structure and by altering its photogenerated charge transfer pathways with an intention to inhibit the surface-bulk charge carrier recombination. For the first time, the several strategies, such as tailoring the intrinsic defects, surface modification with organic compounds, doping with foreign ions, noble metal deposition, heterostructuring with other semiconductors and modification with carbon nanostructures, which have been successfully employed to improve the photoactivity and stability of ZnO are critically reviewed. Such modifications enhance the charge separation and facilitate the generation of reactive oxygenated free radicals, and also the interaction with the pollutant molecules. The synthetic route to obtain hierarchical nanostructured morphologies and study their impact on the photocatalytic performance is explained by considering the morphological influence and the defect-rich chemistry of ZnO. Finally, the crystal facet engineering of polar and non-polar facets and their relevance in photocatalysis is outlined. It is with this intention that the present review directs the further design, tailoring and tuning of the physico-chemical and optoelectronic properties of ZnO for better applications, ranging from photocatalysis to photovoltaics.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 25 Highly Cited 2015 RSC Advances Articles