Semiconductor photocatalysis is on the verge of (probably) its most important deployment and boost since the pioneering paper of Fujishima and Honda in 1972. Photo-generation of unbound excitons, i.e. separated conduction band electrons and valence band positive holes, is the fundamental primary process triggering charge separation in solid semiconductors necessary to initiate their photocatalytic activity. Immediately after being generated, charge carriers can undergo processes like recombination, trapping in mid-band-gap states or, paramount for photocatalytic processes, transfer to species adsorbed on the solid semiconductor surface. In TiO2 and doped TiO2, interfacial charge transfers are the slowest amongst the primary processes; therefore, electron (and hole) transfer most likely occurs from single electron traps (i.e. involving radical species). We report here on an effective approach combining electrochemical impedance spectroscopy with other spectroscopic techniques such as UV-vis and electron paramagnetic resonance. This approach allows deriving important information about band structure and following electron dynamics triggered by photon absorption. The redox potentials of the band edges and the influence of the dopants on the band structure are elucidated by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy combined with UV-vis spectroscopy. Electron dynamics are then studied using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, to elucidate the photochemical reactions at the basis of the photo-generated electron-hole pairs, and subsequent trapping and/or recombination. Results of a TiO2 sample containing W and N as dopants (0.1at.% of W) highlight a narrowing of the intrinsic band gap of about 0.12eV. The semiconductor visible light photochemistry is driven by diamagnetic donor states [NiO]-, and [NiO]w- (formally NO3-), from which electrons can be excited to the conduction band, generating EPR active paramagnetic [NiO] and [NiO] w states (formally NO2-). The formation of W5+ electron trapping states, energetically more favourable than Ti3+ electron trapping states, is also identified.
The Authors are grateful to the European Commission for the financial support through the European Project Light2CAT. Light2CAT is funded by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) under the grant agreement no. 283062 Eco-Innovation, Theme Environment. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the British Council and FAPESP (São Paulo Research Foundation) for the financial support of the workshop ELSOL — Electrochemical solutions for contemporary problems.
- Redox potential
- Visible light