Catalysis Research is an international peer-reviewed Open Access journal published quarterly online by LIDSEN Publishing Inc. This periodical is devoted to publishing high-quality papers that describe the most significant and cutting-edge research in all areas of catalysts and catalyzed reactions. Its aim is to provide timely, authoritative introductions to current thinking, developments and research in carefully selected topics.

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Free Publication in 2021
Current Issue: 2021
Open Access Original Research

Photocatalytic Degradation of Azo Dyes Using Microreactors: Mechanistic Study of its Effects on H2O2 Addition

Minato Nakamura , Yoshinori Murakami *

National Institute of Technology, Nagaoka College, Nagaoka, Niigata 940-8532, Japan

Correspondence: Yoshinori Murakami

Academic Editor: Ewa Kowalska

Special Issue: Advances in Photocatalysis

Received: August 17, 2021 | Accepted: September 03, 2021 | Published: September 13, 2021

Catalysis Research 2021, Volume 1, Issue 3, doi:10.21926/cr.2103002

Recommended citation: Nakamura M, Murakami Y. Photocatalytic Degradation of Azo Dyes Using Microreactors: Effects on the H2O2 addition. Mechanistic Study. Catalysis Research 2021;1(3):16; doi:10.21926/cr.2103002.

© 2021 by the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format, provided the original work is correctly cited.

Abstract

The photocatalytic reaction involved in TiO2 photocatalysis was investigated using a microreactor coated with TiO2 film on the glass plate attached on one side of the microreactor. It was confirmed that the effect of H2O2 on the photocatalytic degradation efficiency of azo dyes (acid orange 7, acid red 151, and acid yellow 23) was dependent on the polymorphs (anatase and rutile) of TiO2 coated on the glass plate of the UV-irradiated microreactor. Scavengers of holes (KI) and electrons (p-benzoquinone) were added to the solution of azo dyes, and their effects on the degradation efficiencies of the azo dye (acid orange 7) in the microreactor system were investigated. It was found that the electron scavengers of p-benzoquinone showed much larger effects on the photocatalytic degradation efficiency than the hole scavengers of KI. Based on these results, the mechanism of the photocatalytic degradation of the azo dyes in the presence of H2O2 was proposed.

Graphical abstract

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Keywords

Photocatalysis; TiO2; microreactor; azo dye; degradation; H2O2; anatase; rutile

1. Introduction

Photocatalysis is known to degrade organic compounds, inactivate or remove viruses, and finds a wide range of applications [1,2,3,4]. Among them, TiO2 is a widely used photocatalyst due to its low cost, non-toxicity, and good oxidizing nature [5,6]. TiO2 exists as three polymorphs of anatase (tetragonal), rutile (tetragonal), and brookite (orthorhombic) [7]. Since it is difficult to prepare the brookite TiO2 without anatase and rutile phases [8], the photocatalytic activities and stabilities are mainly investigated for anatase and rutile TiO2. Although rutile TiO2 is the stable form and anatase is the metastable form, the latter has higher photocatalytic activity than the former type [9]. Recently, Zhang et al. [10] investigated the difference in the photocatalytic activities of the three polymorphs using density functional theory calculations and suggested that the differences were attributed to the longer lifetime of the photoexcited electrons and holes in anatase due to its indirect transition, while rutile and brookite showed direct transition. Also, the effective mass of photogenerated electrons in anatase was lowest, which eased the migration of the photoexcited electrons compared to those in rutile and brookite forms.

The effects of H2O2 addition on the photocatalytic activities of TiO2 have been extensively investigated [11,12] to study the enhancement in the degradation rate of organic compounds. The accelerated degradation rate of the organic compounds was attributed to the oxidation of OH radicals formed by the UV-light photolysis of H2O2 and the photocatalytic reaction of H2O2 with photogenerated electrons on the TiO2 surfaces (i.e., H2O2 + e- → OH + OH-) in addition to the heterogeneous photocatalytic redox reactions on the surface. Li et al. [13] observed the photodecomposition of H2O2 on the TiO2 surface under visible light irradiation and detected OH radicals by the ESR spectroscopic technique. Based on these results, the reaction mechanism for the decomposition of H2O2 on the TiO2 surface by the photocatalytic reduction reaction, such as H2O2 on TiO2 + e- → OH + OH-, was elucidated. Furthermore, Li et al. [13] investigated the mechanism of H2O2 decomposition by monitoring the HO2 radical diffused from the TiO2 surfaces in the gas phase using the cavity ring-down method. The HO2 radicals diffused from the TiO2 surfaces were successfully detected in the gas phase. Also, it was found that the lifetime of the HO2 radicals was dependent on the type of TiO2. Thus, it was concluded that the HO2 radicals were generated by the photocatalytic reaction on the TiO2 surface, not by the photolysis of H2O2 in the gas phase.

The direct detection of OH radicals released by the photocatalytic reaction on TiO2 was performed by Nosaka and co-workers using coumarin and terephthalate as the fluorescence probe of the radicals [14,15]. The effect of H2O2 addition on the amount of OH radicals formed by the photocatalytic reaction was studied. The amount of OH radicals increased in rutile TiO2 but decreased in the anatase form. Thus, the difference in the reactivity of H2O2 for anatase and rutile surfaces caused the difference in the effect of H2O2 addition on the amount of OH radicals generated by the photocatalytic reaction. Since the photocatalytic activity was dependent not only on the polymorphs of TiO2 but also on other parameters such as particle diameter, the comparison of the photocatalytic activity of the three TiO2 polymorphs in the film form was preferable.

Recently, microreactors have attracted much attention as the reactions can be regulated in more precise and controlled conditions than those in a batch reactor [16]. There were numerous studies on photocatalytic reactions using microreactors. The review articles on the photocatalytic reaction using microreactors are also available in the literature 17 [17]. In the present study, the effect of H2O2 addition on the TiO2 photocatalytic reactions using conventional microreactor systems was investigated, and the difference in the reactivity of H2O2 for anatase and rutile surfaces was determined by measuring the degradation of azo dyes inside the microreactors. Since the photocatalytic microreactor system avoids the complexity arising from the particle dispersion or aggregation in the TiO2 suspension during the photocatalytic reaction, it is a desirable reactor to investigate such polymorph dependency of the H2O2 addition on the TiO2 photocatalytic reaction.

2. Experimental Methods

2.1 Fabrication of the TiO2 Film on a Microreactor

The microreactor purchased from Key Chem-Lumi Co. Ltd. was used for the study without any further modification. It has an internal channel width of 1.0 mm, depth of 0.5 mm, and length of 1100 mm. In order to avoid the disclosure of the channel of the microreactor, TiO2 film was deposited on the inner side of the quartz window in the microreactor by the sol-gel calcination method, as shown in Figure 1(a). The calcination temperature for the TiO2 sol on the glass substrate was set to 200 °C. The TiO2 sols of the anatase form (AT-01) were purchased from Photo-Catalytic Materials Co. Ltd., and those of the rutile form (RA-06) were a generous gift from Taki Chemical Co. Ltd. The crystal structure of TiO2 on the glass substrate was verified by measuring the XRD patterns of each TiO2 film, as shown in Figure 2.

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Figure 1 (a) Coating of TiO2 on the glass substrate of the microreactor; (b) Experimental setup of the TiO2 photocatalytic microreactor system.

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Figure 2 (a) XRD patterns of the TiO2 films on the glass substrate prepared by the calcination of (a) TiO2 sol (AT-01, Photo-Catalytic Materials) and (b) TiO2 sol (RA-06, Taki Co. Ltd.)

2.2 Experimental Procedures

The schematic figure of the experimental setup is given in Figure 1(b). The azo dye solution injected by the microsyringe flowed to the microreactor at a speed of about 0.1 µL/min. Meanwhile, a 150W Xe lamp (L2273, Hamamatsu Co. Ltd.) was used to irradiate the TiO2 films on the quartz glass attached to the flowing dye solution in the microreactor. Upon ceasing the flow inside the microreactor, the azo dye solution was collected in a glass container and used for the evaluation of the degradation efficiency by measuring the absorbance of the azo dye solution. The absorbance of the azo dye solution was recorded by a spectrometer (Lambda 35, Perkin Elmer, Inc.). The degradation efficiency is defined by the following equation based on the ratio of the absorbance of the azo dye solution with and without the photocatalytic reactions: Degradation efficiency (%) = 100 - {(absorbance before reaction)/(absorbance after reaction) × 100}. In order to understand the effect of H2O2 addition, a certain concentration of H2O2 was mixed in the azo dye solution, which was injected into the microreactor using the microsyringe. In the present study, three types of azo dyes (acid orange 7, acid red 151, and acid yellow 23) were used without any further purification. In order to confirm that the films of anatase and rutile TiO2 were prepared by the sols of AT-01 and RA-06, respectively, the UV absorption spectra of these films were recorded. The results are shown in Figure 3. The absorption peaks of the anatase and rutile films were observed at 380 nm and 400 nm, respectively. It is well known that the rutile TiO2 shows an absorption peak at a longer wavelength than anatase. The present results were consistent with the XRD patterns to confirm that the films of the sol AT-01 and sol RA-06 corresponded to the anatase and rutile forms, respectively.

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Figure 3 UV absorption spectra of the TiO2 film on the glass substrate prepared by the calcination of (a) TiO2 sol (AT-01, Photo-Catalytic Materials) (solid line) and (b) TiO2 sol (RA-06, Taki Co. Ltd.) (dashed line)

3. Results

3.1 Preliminary Experiment: Measurement of the Fluorescence of Rhodamine 6G in the Microreactor

Before measuring the photocatalytic degradation efficiencies of the azo dyes in the photocatalytic microreactor by monitoring the change in their absorbance after the completion of the photocatalytic reaction, the in-situ measurement of the degradation process was carried out using the real-time fluorescence probe techniques. For the real-time fluorescence probe techniques, the quartz glass capillary was connected to the end of the flow channel in the microreactor instead of collecting the dye solutions that flowed through them. Further, the fluorescence of Rhodamine G in the glass capillary was recorded. The schematic figure of this experimental setup is shown in Figure 4. In the present experiment, Rhodamine G was used due to its strong fluorescence upon excitation with a 550 nm light. The wavelength of irradiated light was chosen by dispersing and selecting the wavelength of a metal halide lamp using a monochromator. The time evolution of the fluorescence intensity of Rhodamine G is given in Figure 5. The temporal decay of the fluorescence intensity was observed after the initiation of the irradiation of the Xe lamp. The time of the decay was found to be dependent on the flow rate, as shown in Figure 5. Since the Xe lamp irradiated the whole area of the quartz glass attached to the top of the microreactor, the dye solution of Rhodamine G continuously decomposed as far as the UV light irradiated the flowed azo dye solution in the microreactor due to the photocatalytic reaction of the TiO2 film within the system. Since the dye solution at the entrance of the microreactor suffered the TiO2 photocatalytic reactions for a longer time, the fluorescence intensity proportional to the concentration of Rhodamine G continued to decay until the solution reached the end of the microreactor.

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Figure 4 Schematic figure of the experimental setup: In-situ fluorescence probe techniques.

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Figure 5 Temporal evolution of the fluorescence intensity of Rhodamine 6G. The flow rates are (a) 0.1 (b) 0.05 and (c) 0.01 µmol/L, respectively.

Considering the whole length of the reaction flow in the microreactor as L (m) and the time duration taken to achieve constant fluorescence intensity as t0 (sec), the flow rate is expected to be proportional to the value of L/t0. Since the length of the flow in the microreactor L (m) is constant, the flow rate is expected to be proportional to the reciprocal to the time taken to achieve constant fluorescence intensity (that is, t0 (sec)). The reciprocal of the time taken to achieve constant fluorescence intensity of rhodamine G versus flow rate was plotted, as shown in Figure 6.

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Figure 6 Relationship between the reciprocal of the time taken to achieve constant fluorescence intensity and flow rate of the microreactor.

As shown in Figure 6, a linear plot was obtained between the reciprocal of the time taken to achieve constant fluorescence intensity of rhodamine G and flow rate, suggesting that the decay of the fluorescence intensity was attributed to the photocatalytic reaction inside the microreactor caused by the irradiation of the microreactor with the Xe lamp. It was also found that the fluorescence intensity was constant in the absence of UV light irradiation on the Rhodamine 6G solution, suggesting no or very little adsorption of the dye on the wall of the microreactor or quartz glass during the flow process.

Thus, the azo dye solution at the end of the flow channel in the microreactor was irradiated with Xe lamp to evaluate the degradation efficiency of the photocatalysis in the following experiments.

3.2 Effects of the Addition of H2O2: Comparison between Anatase and Rutile TiO2

Since the degradation process in the microreactor by the occurrence of photocatalytic reaction was confirmed in the present system, the effects of H2O2 on the photocatalytic degradation efficiency were investigated. In order to perform this experiment, a certain amount of H2O2 was mixed with the azo dye solution and injected into the microreactor. The azo dye with an acid orange 7 was used for the test. The results are presented in Figure 7. In the anatase TiO2 film (AT-01, Photo-Catalytic Materials), the degradation efficiency monotonically decreased with the increasing concentration of H2O2, as shown in Figure 7(a). On the other hand, in the rutile TiO2 film (RA-06, Taki Chemical), the degradation efficiency initially increased with the concentration of H2O2 and then started to decrease as the concentration of H2O2 reached 10 mM, as shown Figure 7(b). There have been previous reports on the acceleration of the TiO2 photocatalytic reaction by the addition of H2O2, but no previous investigations on the effects of H2O2 on the degradation efficiency of the TiO2 crystal forms, such as anatase and rutile. Hirakawa et al. [14] reported that the anatase TiO2 form released less amount of OH radicals upon the addition of H2O2, while the rutile form showed enhanced OH radical formation. The present results are consistent with the reported experimental observations. Harir et al. [11] performed a detailed kinetic study of the H2O2/TiO2 system using commercially available TiO2 (P25, Deggusa) powders. Also, the effect of H2O2 on photocatalytic activity was investigated and reported to be maximum at around 10 mM of H2O2.

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Figure 7 Relationship between the concentration of H2O2 versus degradation efficiency (%) of acid orange 7 in the UV-irradiated microreactor coated with the TiO2 film of (a) anatase form and (b) rutile form.

The inhibition effects of H2O2 on the photocatalytic activity of TiO2 under relatively high H2O2 concentration were reported. The previous experimental results are consistent with the current observation of the rutile form. Since the photocatalytic TiO2 powders (P25, Degussa) consisted of the mixed phases of anatase and rutile, a mixed-phase TiO2 film was developed on the quartz glass of the microreactor to find the effect of H2O2 on the photocatalytic activity in the present study. The AT-01 and RA-06 sols were mixed to develop this mixed-phase film. The results are presented in Figure 8. Irreversible to the anatase-rutile ratios of TiO2, degradation efficiency, The photocatalytic activity was maximum at around 10 mM of H2O2, which was consistent with the results of Harir et al. [11], suggesting that the effect of H2O2 on the degradation efficiency was attributed to the crystal forms. In other words, the rutile form in the mixed crystal phase of TiO2 played a key role in the effect of H2O2 addition. The irreversible morphology of the TiO2 was film or powders.

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Figure 8 Relationship between the concentration of H2O2 versus degradation efficiency (%) of acid orange 7 in the UV-irradiated microreactor coated with the TiO2 film containing different anatase and rutile ratios obtained by mixing anatase TiO2 sols (AT-01) and rutile TiO2 sols (RA-06).

To further confirm the effect of H2O2 concentration on the degradation efficiency of the azo dyes, two different azo dyes of acid red 151 and acid yellow 23 were chosen to perform studies on the anatase and rutile TiO2 films, respectively. The results are illustrated in Figure 9 and Figure 10. Although the acid orange 7 azo dye was replaced by acid red 151 and acid yellow 23, the effect of H2O2 on the degradation efficiency by anatase and rutile was similar to the trend observed in the former. This suggested that the effect of H2O2 on the degradation of the azo dyes within the TiO2/H2O2 system was different for different crystal structures of TiO2 (anatase or rutile form).

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Figure 9 Relationship between the concentration of H2O2 versus degradation efficiency (%) of acid red 151 in the UV-irradiated microreactor coated with the TiO2 film of anatase form (filled circle) and rutile form (filled square).

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Figure 10 Relationship between the concentration of H2O2 versus degradation efficiency (%) of acid yellow 23 in the UV-irradiated microreactor coated with the TiO2 film of anatase form (filled circle) and rutile form (filled square).

3.3 Effects of the Addition of Scavengers: Discussion of the Mechanism of Anatase and Rutile TiO2 under the Microenvironmental Conditions

The photocatalytic degradation efficiencies of the three azo dyes by the UV-irradiation of anatase, rutile, and mixed TiO2 in the microreactor were presented. The effects of H2O2 concentration on the degradation efficiency of TiO2 photocatalysis in the microreactor between anatase and rutile were observed. Although there are still some debates on the relative role of holes and OH radicals on the degradation of azo dyes, several authors confirmed the significance of OH radicals on the degradation process [18,19]. Since the OH radicals are formed by two pathways, namely water oxidation and reduction of H2O2 produced by the multielectron reduction of oxygen, it is important to identify these radicals contributing to the degradation of azo dyes. Therefore, this study attempted to identify the mechanism of the formation of the OH radicals attributing to the degradation process, which was investigated by the addition of scavengers.

Based on the previous studies, benzoquinone (hereafter, BQ) [20] and KI [21] were used as the electron and hole (OH radical) scavengers, respectively, and acid orange 7 was chosen as the representative azo dye solution in the present work. The results are presented in Figure 11 and Figure 12. It was observed that the electron scavengers of BQ showed relatively larger effects compared to the slight effects of KI on the photocatalytic degradation efficiency of acid orange 7. Since the OH radicals were formed by the reduction reaction of O2 via H2O2, the influence of the addition of BQ on the degradation efficiency of the azo dye (acid orange 7) in the presence of H2O2 was also investigated.

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Figure 11 Relationship between the degradation efficiency (%) of acid orange 7 in the UV-irradiated microreactor coated with the TiO2 film and the concentration of KI acting as hole scavengers: (a) anatase form of TiO2 (AT-01) and (b) rutile form of TiO2 (RA-06).

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Figure 12 Relationship between the degradation efficiency (%) of acid orange 7 in the UV-irradiated microreactor coated with the TiO2 film and the concentration of p-BQ (p-benzoquinone) acting as electron scavengers: (a) anatase form of TiO2 (AT-01) and (b) rutile form of TiO2 (RA-06).

The experimental results are presented in Figure 13. It was observed that the influence of BQ on the reduction of the photocatalytic degradation efficiency was very large in the presence of 10 mM of H2O2. When the concentration of BQ rose to 10 mM, the degradation efficiency was reduced to zero. The significance of the OH radicals formed by the reduction reaction by H2O2 generated by the reduction of O2 on the degradation mechanism was not explained in the literature. Thus, the results of the current study suggested the important role of the OH radicals formed by the reduction reaction. Finally, the mechanism of the scavengers and OH-radical formation by the photocatalytic reaction is illustrated in Figure 14. Thus, the difference in the photocatalytic degradation efficiency of TiO2 was attributed to the different reactivity of the anatase and rutile forms in the reduction reaction. Nosaka and co-workers [14,22] reported that the different structures of the peroxy species of the TiO2 surfaces in the anatase and rutile forms contributed to the difference in reactivity, as illustrated in Figure 15. The present results on the different photocatalytic degradation efficiencies upon the H2O2 addition might be attributed to the same factor, as reported by Nosaka et al. [22,23], Hayashi et al. [24] and Murakami et al. [25,26] in the literature. Further studies are required to clarify their significance in the degradation mechanism.

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Figure 13 Relationship between the degradation efficiency (%) of acid orange 7 in the UV-irradiated microreactor coated with the TiO2 film and the concentration of p-BQ (p-benzoquinone) acting as electron scavengers in the presence of 10 mM of H2O2: (a) anatase form of TiO2 (AT-01) and (b) rutile form of TiO2 (RA-06).

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Figure 14 Schematic representation of the inhibition effects of each scavenger (KI and p-BQ) on the TiO2 photocatalytic reaction.

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Figure 15 Schematic representation of the peroxy species on the anatase and rutile TiO2 surfaces, and the proposed mechanism for the formation of OH from the peroxy species on the TiO2 surface [14].

4. Conclusions

The degradation efficiency of three azo dyes in the photocatalytic microreactor system was studied along with the effect of H2O2 on the degradation process. It was found that the photocatalytic degradation efficiency of acid orange 7 within the TiO2 photocatalytic microreactor system was monotonically decreased in the presence of the anatase form of TiO2. However, the degradation efficiency was enhanced in the presence of the rutile form of TiO2 up to the H2O2 concentration of 10 mM and then decreased with the increase in the concentration of H2O2. The other azo dyes, such as acid red 151 and acid yellow 23, also showed similar trends. In order to investigate the effect of H2O2 on the photocatalytic degradation efficiency of the anatase and rutile forms, scavengers of holes and electrons were added in the photocatalytic microreactor systems. From these experiments, the importance of the OH radicals formed by the reduction of O2 was suggested. Thus, it was speculated that the difference in the effect of H2O2 on the photocatalytic degradation efficiency was probably attributed to the different reactivity and reduction reactions of H2O2 on the anatase and rutile TiO2 surfaces.

Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge Prof. Kenji Katayama for helpful advice for the fabrication of the microreactor system. One of the authors also acknowledges the support from the GEAR 5.0 Project of the National Institute of Technology (KOSEN) in Japan.

Author Contributions

Mr. Minato Nakamura performed experiments and analyses. Prof. Yoshinori Murakami supervised the research.

Funding

No organization or foundation was funded for this research.

Competing Interests

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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