Efficiency of clay-TiO2 nanocomposites on the photocatalytic elimination
of a model hydrophobic air pollutant
Clay-supported TiO2 photocatalysts can potentially improve the performance of air treatment technologies via enhanced adsorption and reactivity of target volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In this study, a bench-top photocatalytic flow reactor was used to evaluate the efficiency of hectorite-TiO2 and kaolinite-TiO2, two novel composite materials synthesized in our laboratory. Toluene, a model hydrophobic VOC and a common indoor air pollutant, was introduced in the air stream at realistic concentrations, and reacted under UVA (gamma max = 365 nm) or UVC (gamma max = 254 nm) irradiation. The UVC lamp generated secondary emission at 185 nm, leading to the formation of ozone and other short-lived reactive species. Performance of clay-TiO2 composites was compared with that of pure TiO2 (Degussa P25), and with UV irradiation in the absence of photocatalyst under identical conditions. Films of clay-TiO2 composites and of P25 were prepared by a dip-coating method on the surface of Raschig rings, which were placed inside the flow reactor. An upstream toluene concentration of ~;;170 ppbv was generated by diluting a constant flow of toluene vapor from a diffusion source with dry air, or with humid air at 10, 33 and 66percent relative humidity (RH). Toluene concentrations were determined by collecting Tenax-TA (R) sorbent tubes downstream of the reactor, with subsequent thermal desorption -- GC/MS analysis. The fraction of toluene removed, percentR, and the reaction rate, Tr, were calculated for each experimental condition from the concentration changes measured with and without UV irradiation. Use of UVC light (UV/TiO2/O3) led to overall higher reactivity, which can be partially attributed to the contribution of gas phase reactions by short-lived radical species. When the reaction rate was normalized to the light irradiance, Tr/I gamma, the UV/TiO2 reaction under UVA irradiation was more efficient for samples with a higher content of TiO2 (P25 and Hecto-TiO2), but not for Kao-TiO2. In all cases, reaction rates peaked at 10percent RH, with Tr values between 10 and 50percent higher than those measured under dry air. However, a net inhibition was observed as RH increased to 33percent and 66percent, indicating that water molecules competed effectively with toluene for reactive surface sites and limited the overall photocatalytic conversion. Compared to P25, inhibition by co-adsorbed water was less significant for Kao-TiO2 samples, but was more dramatic for Hecto-TiO2 due to the high water uptake capacity of hectorite.