Kaolin-supported ZnO nanoparticle catalysts in self sensitized tetracycline photodegradation: Zero point charge and pH effects
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Natural waters are prone to pollution with organic contaminants, waste pharmaceuticals being an example. Pharmaceutical compounds are widely detected in different surface waters, such as lakes and rivers. Removal of such contaminants from water is therefore imperative. Different strategies are commonly followed such as adsorption, chlorination, ozonation, peroxidation and others. Each method has its shortcomings. Photodegradation of water organic contaminants by semiconductors is a safe and non-costly method. In photodegradation, the organic contaminant is completely mineralized with radiation and oxygen using stable semiconductor nanoparticles as photocatalysts. ZnO nanopowder is widely described for photodegradation processes. Due to its wide band gap (~3.2 eV) ZnO excitation is limited to UV radiation. Moreover, the nano-particle nature for the ZnO catalyst makes it difficult to recover and re-use after process completion. Supporting the ZnO nanoparticles onto stable solid material surfaces is one possible way out, and is studied here. Raw clay (kaolin) is described to support ZnO particles in photodegradation of a widely encountered pharmaceutical contaminant, tetracycline (TC). The results show the possibility of annealed ZnO/Kaolin to remove TC from water, firstly by adsorbing the contaminant then by photodegrading it into mineral species. The study shows that TC molecules pre-adsorbed onto ZnO/Kaolin were mineralized during photodegradation experiments. Complete mineralization of reacted contaminant molecules was confirmed by spectrophotometry, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and total organic carbon (TOC) study. Control experiments with a cut-off filter (400 nm and shorter) confirmed the ability of the catalyst to function in the visible region, where contaminant molecules behave as sensitizers in the photodegradation process. Optimizing the efficiency of the ZnO catalyst in TC photodegradation processes by studying the effect of pH using the point of zero charge (pHPZC) concepts is achieved. Collectively, the results show the possibility to prepare an efficient recoverable ZnO/Kaolin catalyst, which can be sensitized with TC molecules themselves with optimal working pH range 6–9.

Applied Clay Sciences
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Thomson Reuters
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