Converting Carbohydrates to Carbon-Based Photocatalysts for Environmental Treatment

2017-05-16T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Zhuofeng Hu Zhurui Shen Jimmy C. Yu
Carbohydrates in biomass can be converted to semiconductive hydrothermal carbonation carbon (HTCC), a material that contains plenty of sp2-hybridization structures. Under solar light illumination, HTCC generates photoexcited electrons, holes, and hydroxyl radicals. These species can be used for photocatalytic treatment such as water disinfection and degradation of organic pollutants. The photocatalytic activity of HTCC can be significantly enhanced by iodine doping. The enhancement mechanism is investigated by density functional theoretical calculations and electrochemical measurements. The iodine dopants twist and optimize the structures of the sp2-hybridization in HTCC, thereby favoring photon-induced excitation. Moreover, the iodine dopants facilitate the charge transfer between different sp2-hybridization structures, thus increasing the conductivity and activity of the HTCC. An added benefit is that the I-doped HTCC exhibits lower cytotoxic effect than the pure HTCC. In addition to monosaccharides (glucose), disaccharides (sucrose), and polysaccharides (starch), we have also transformed crops (e.g., rice), plants (e.g., grass), and even agricultural waste (e.g., straw) and animal waste (e.g., cow dung). The conversion of carbohydrates to HTCC may be considered as a “Trash to Treasure” approach. We believe this discovery will attract a lot of attention from researchers involved in environmental catalysis, waste recycling, and pollution treatment.