Facile in situ reductive synthesis of both nitrogen deficient and protonated g-C3N4 nanosheets for the synergistic enhancement of visible-light H2 evolution†
A new strategy is reported here to synthesize both nitrogen deficient and protonated graphitic carbon nitride (g-C3N4) nanosheets by the conjoint use of NH4Cl as a dynamic gas template together with hypophosphorous acid (H3PO2) as a doping agent. The NH4Cl treatment allows for the scalable production of protonated g-C3N4 nanosheets. With the corresponding co-addition of H3PO2, nitrogen vacancies, accompanied by both additional protons and interstitially-doped phosphorus, are introduced into the g-C3N4 framework, and the electronic bandgap of g-C3N4 nanosheets as well as their optical properties and hydrogen-production performance can be precisely tuned by careful adjustment of the H3PO2 treatment. This conjoint approach thereby results in improved visible-light absorption, enhanced charge-carrier separation and a high H2 evolution rate of 881.7 μmol h−1 achieved over the H3PO2 doped g-C3N4 nanosheets with a corresponding apparent quantum yield (AQY) of 40.4% (at 420 nm). We illustrate that the synergistic H3PO2 doping modifies the layered g-C3N4 materials by introducing nitrogen vacancies as well as protonating them, leading to significant photocatalytic H2 evolution enhancements, while the g-C3N4 materials doped with phosphoric acid (H3PO4) are simply protonated further, revealing the varied doping effects of phosphorus having different (but accessible) valence states.