Graphene-based plasmonic nanocomposites for highly enhanced solar-driven photocatalytic activities
High-efficiency photocatalysts are crucial for the removal of organic pollutants and environmental sustainability. In the present work, we report on a new low-temperature hydrothermal chemical method, assisted by ultrasonication, to synthesize disruptive plasmonic ZnO/graphene/Ag/AgI nanocomposites for solar-driven photocatalysis. The plasmonic nanocomposites were investigated by a wide range of characterization techniques, confirming successful formation of photocatalysts with excellent degradation efficiency. Using Congo red as a model dye molecule, our experimental results demonstrated a photocatalytic reactivity exceeding 90% efficiency after one hour simulated solar irradiation. The significantly enhanced degradation efficiency is attributed to improved electronic properties of the nanocomposites by hybridization of the graphene and to the addition of Ag/AgI which generates a strong surface plasmon resonance effect in the metallic silver further improving the photocatalytic activity and stability under solar irradiation. Scavenger experiments suggest that superoxide and hydroxyl radicals are responsible for the photodegradation of Congo red. Our findings are important for the fundamental understanding of the photocatalytic mechanism of ZnO/graphene/Ag/AgI nanocomposites and can lead to further development of novel efficient photocatalyst materials.