Smart paper transformer: new insight for enhanced catalytic efficiency and reusability of noble metal nanocatalysts†
Although noble metal nanocatalysts show superior performance to conventional catalysts, they can be problematic when balancing catalytic efficiency and reusability. In order to address this dilemma, we developed a smart paper transformer (s-PAT) to support nanocatalysts, based on easy phase conversion between paper and pulp, for the first time. The pulp phase was used to maintain the high catalytic efficiency of the nanocatalysts and the transformation to paper enabled their high reusability. Herein, as an example of smart paper transformers, a novel chromatography paper-supported Au nanosponge (AuNS/pulp) catalyst was developed through a simple water-based preparation process for the successful reduction of p-nitrophenol to demonstrate the high catalytic efficiency and reusability of the noble metal nanocatalyst/pulp system. The composition, structure, and morphology of the AuNS/pulp catalyst were characterized by XRD, TGA, FE-SEM, ICP, TEM, FT-IR, and XPS. The AuNS/pulp catalyst was transformed into the pulp phase during the catalytic reaction and into the paper phase to recover the catalysts after use. Owing to this smart switching of physical morphology, the AuNS/pulp catalyst was dispersed more evenly in the solution. Therefore, it exhibited excellent catalytic performance for p-nitrophenol reduction. Under optimal conditions, the conversion rate of p-nitrophenol reached nearly 100% within 6 min and the k value of AuNS/pulp (0.0106 s−1) was more than twice that of a traditional chromatography paper-based catalyst (0.0048 s−1). Additionally, it exhibited outstanding reusability and could maintain its high catalytic efficiency even after fifteen recycling runs. Accordingly, the unique phase switching of this smart paper transformer enables Au nanosponge to transform into a highly efficient and cost-effective multifunctional catalyst. The paper transformer can support various nanocatalysts for a wide range of applications, thus providing a new insight into maintaining both high catalytic efficiency and reusability of nanocatalysts in the fields of environmental catalysis and nanomaterials.