|dc.description.abstract||As a consequence of the rapid growth of population in urban areas, water use and reuse has become a major concern, leading to an urgent imperative of developing effective and affordable technologies for the treatment of water and wastewater. Traditional methods for water treatment are usually based on physical and biological processes but, unfortunately, some organic pollutants, classified as bio-recalcitrant, are not biodegradable. In this way heterogeneous photocatalysis may become an effective water treatment technology to remove organic pollutants hardly oxidised by conventional techniques.
Photocatalysis represents one of the main challenges in the field of treatment and decontamination of water and air, because it is able to work at ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure. Heterogeneous photocatalysis is a catalytic process that uses the energy associated to a light source to activate a catalyst with semiconducting properties. The most common used photocatalyst is titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is able to oxidize a wide range of toxic organic compounds to harmless compounds such as CO2 and H2O. However, the following major factors limit both photocatalytic efficiency and activity of TiO2:
a) the band gap of anatase TiO2 is 3.2 eV, i.e. it absorbs light in the UV region, so that only a small portion (5%) of sunlight can be used for a photocatalytic process. This is a great limitation in its use as photocatalyst for the conversion of solar into chemical energy;
b) as in all semiconductors, photogenerated electron-hole couples undergo fast recombination in competition with charge transfer to adsorbed species on the catalyst surface;
c) the use of slurry reactors limits the industrial applications of photocatalysis, since the necessary separation of catalyst powders after liquid phase reactions is troublesome and expensive.
In this context, during this PhD project different routes have been explored to go beyond these limitations:
1. With respect to the use of visible light irradiation, doping with anions belonging to the p-block was investigated in recent years to sensitize TiO2 towards visible light, either by introducing newly created mid-gap energy states, or by narrowing the band gap itself. However, the role of titania dopants such as N, C, B, S, P, I and F is still not completely understood. The insertion of dopants in the crystalline structure of TiO2 may induce light absorption in the visible region, but also increases the rate of the undesired recombination of photogenerated charge carriers. This effect becomes relatively lower if the crystallinity of the oxide structure is higher... [edited by Author]||it_IT