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Virtually Transparent TiO2/Polyelectrolyte Thin Multilayer Films as High-Efficiency Nanoporous Photocatalytic Coatings for Breaking Down Formic Acid and for Escherichia coli Removal

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journal contribution
posted on 07.12.2020, 18:37 by Marvin Motay, David Martel, Bertrand Vileno, Charline Soraru, Lydie Ploux, María Guadalupe Méndez-Medrano, Christophe Colbeau-Justin, Gero Decher, Nicolas Keller
Virtually transparent photocatalytic multilayer films composed of TiO2 nanoparticles and polyelectrolytes were built on model surfaces using layer-by-layer assembly and investigated as photocatalytic nanoporous coatings. Formic acid (HCOOH) and Escherichia coli were used as models for the degradation of gaseous pollutants and for studying antibacterial properties. Positively charged TiO2 nanoparticles were coassembled with negatively charged poly­(sodium 4-styrenesulfonate) (NaPSS) which leads to highly transparent nanoscale coatings in which the content of TiO2 particles is controlled mainly by the number of deposition cycles and the enhanced translucency with respect to titania powders is likely due to the presence of the polyelectrolytes in the interstitial space between the particles. Build-up and structural properties of the films were determined by ellipsometry, quartz crystal microbalance (QCM-D, with dissipation monitoring), and UV–vis spectrophotometry in transmission and scanning electron microscopy. Complementary photophysical and activity tests of (PSS/TiO2)n multilayer films were performed in the gas-phase under UV-A light and revealed a peculiar dependence on the number of layer pairs (LPs), corresponding to a clear deviation from the usual observations in photocatalysis with increasing TiO2 amounts. Most notably, a single LP film showed a strongly enhanced HCOOH mineralization and outperformed films with a higher number of LPs, with respect to the quantity of TiO2 catalyst present in the films. It is believed that the high quantum yield (8.1%) of a coating consisting of a single TiO2 layer which is 6–7 times higher than that of a 6–10 LP film could be due to the optimum accessibility of the TiO2 crystallites toward both HCOOH and water molecules. In thicker films, while no detrimental light screening was observed with increasing the number of LPs, diffusion phenomena could cap the efficiency of the access of the pollutant and water to the catalytic surface. Unlike for HCOOH mineralization, three PSS/TiO2 LPs were required for observing a maximum antibacterial activity of the nanocomposite coatings. This is likely due to the fact that micrometer-sized E. coli bacteria do not enter into the interstitial space between the TiO2 particles and require a different surface morphology with respect to the number of active contact points for optimum degradation.