Nanocrystalline TiO2/Ti3C2Tx MXene composites with a tunable work function prepared using atmospheric pressure oxygen plasma†
Composites of TiO2 and Ti3C2Tx MXene are of great interest because they combine superior TiO2 photocatalytic activity with excellent MXene conductivity. As these composites have conventionally been prepared using methods requiring high temperatures, a process for producing similar materials at reduced temperature could be beneficial for applications in flexible and printed electronics. Therefore, we used low-temperature dielectric barrier discharge to develop a method for forming crystalline TiO2 by treating Ti3C2Tx MXene surfaces with high-power-density oxygen plasma comprising various energetic and reactive oxygen species, which oxidize MXene surfaces and form TiO2 nanoparticles on disordered graphitic carbon sheets within a few seconds. Scanning electron microscopy was used to observe the plasma-induced morphological changes to elucidate the TiO2 formation mechanism. The MXene surface chemistry was studied in detail using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and ab initio modelling. The crystalline phase of TiO2 was further studied using transmission electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. The results presented here suggest the formation of small anatase nanoparticles on the surface of MXenes within just seconds of plasma exposure. Nanoparticles grew with prolonged plasma treatment and a transition from anatase to rutile was observed. Considering that the temperature of plasma was always below 70 °C, the oxygen plasma process for the preparation of TiO2/Ti3C2Tx composites is an excellent candidate for application on temperature-sensitive substrates in flexible and printed electronics.