Integrating surface plasmon resonance and slow photon effects in nanoporous anodic alumina photonic crystals for photocatalysis†
This study explores the potential of gold-coated titania-functionalized nanoporous anodic alumina distributed Bragg reflectors (Au-TiO2-NAA-DBRs) as platforms to enhance photocatalytic reactions by integrating “slow photons” and surface plasmon resonance (SPR). The photocatalytic degradation rate of methylene blue – a model organic compound with a well-defined absorption band in the visible spectral region – by these composite photonic crystals (PCs) upon visible-NIR light irradiation is used as an indicator to identify coupling effects between the “slow photon” effect and SPR. Our study demonstrates that the photocatalytic enhancement in Au-TiO2-NAA-DBRs is strongly associated with “slow photon” effect, while the contribution of SPR to the overall photocatalytic enhancement is weak due to the localized generation of surface plasmons on the top surface of the composite PC structure. Photocatalytic enhancement is optimal when the characteristic photonic stopband of these PCs partially overlaps with the absorption band of methylene blue, which results in edges being positioned away from the absorption maximum of the organic dye. The overall photocatalytic degradation for methylene blue is also correlated to the type of noble metal coating and the geometric features of the PC structures. These results establish a rationale for further development of noble metal-coated NAA-based hybrid plasmonic–photonic crystal photocatalyst platforms to optimally integrate “slow photons” and SPR for enhancing the efficiency of photocatalytic reactions and other light harvesting applications.