Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Chemical Engineering

Major Professor

Aydin K. Sunol


aerogel, nanostructure, photocatalytic degradation, titania, visible light


Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) emerged as one of the most popular photocatalysts since 1970's. However, its photocatalytic activity requires UV irradiation due to its large band gap unless further functionalization or modifications are performed. Furthermore, recovery issue has always been a major drawback, if the more effective form nano particles are utilized.

The key objectives of this research were synthesizing new TiO2 based photocatalyst systems that are effective with both the UV and the visible light while utilizing novel superior environmentally friendly techniques enabling development of nano-structured photocatalysts that can be easily recovered. In this dissertation research, highly porous nano-structured TiO2/WO3/Fe3+ aerogel composite photocatalyst are prepared, characterized, and tested for model photocatalytic reactions. The photocatalyst structure is tailored to capture environmental pollutants and enable their decomposition in-situ under both UV and visible light through photodecomposition to smaller benign substances.

A novel and green method is applied to prepare unique surfactant templated aerogel photocatalysts with highly porous nano-structure, high surface area, and tailored pore size distribution. Sol-gel process followed by supercritical fluids extraction and drying allowed synthesis of highly porous composite TiO2/WO3 aerogel. The surfactant template was completely removed with the aid of a supercritical solvent mixture followed with heat treatment. Fe3+ ion was incorporated within the composite aerogel photocatalyst as dopant either at the sol-gel co-precipitation step or at a subsequent supercritical impregnation process. Supercritical drying followed with heat treatment results in titanium dioxide with the most profound anatase crystal structure. Neutral templates were used to further enhance retention and tuning of the nano-pore structure and the surface properties. The Nitrogen adsorption-desorption isotherms methods were used to follow the removal of solvents and templates as well as tracking the textural properties of the synthesized aerogel. Surfactant-templated aerogels, which show remarkable thermal stability and uniform pore size distribution, exhibit specific surface areas three times more than the highly optimized commercial nano-particles, industry standard TiO2 photocatalyst Degussa P-25, even after heat treatment.

The synthesized catalysts were characterized by using SEM, FIB, EDS, XRD, XPS and porosimetry prior to post photocatalytic activity evaluation through a model photocatalytic reaction. The band gaps of the catalysts were also determined by using diffuse reflectance spectroscopy.

The model reaction employed Methylene Blue (MB) photo-oxidation under UV and visible light. Resulting aerogel TiO2/WO3/Fe3+ photocatalyst exhibited comparable photocatalytic capability to Degussa P25 under UV light exposure and offered much superior photocatalytic capability under visible light exposure.