Noble metal clusters incorporated g-C3N4 based heterostructures toward solar-driven photo- and electrochemical conversion

The ever increasing in global energy demand, excess use of fossil fuels and associated environment issues involving emission of greenhouse gases (e.g., CO2) are serious challenges facing the society today. 

Xiao Zhang

Developing advanced materials that assist conversion of renewable energy (e.g., hydrogen, valuable carbon-based fuels) from a variety of intermittent energy sources (including solar energy) for continuous power supply related applications helps sorting out effective ways in solving energy crisis and supporting environmental protection. Due to the sluggish kinetics of the multistep charge transfer process of photo-/electro-chemical reactions, appropriate semiconducting photocatalysts with increased absorbance in the whole solar spectrum region are required to carry out various catalytic reactions. These semiconducting catalysts have been developed and utilized for water splitting to generate H2 and O2, CO2 reduction, as well as pollutants degradation and reduction related applications. Development of solar light responsive carbon-based catalyst has been receiving considerable attention. Among the various carbon-based materials exploited, graphitic carbon nitride (g-C3N4), as a stable semiconducting base material composed of earth-abundant carbon and nitrogen elements, has been considered a promising stable catalyst material with diverse properties that can be applied in visible-light-driven catalysis related applications (e.g., hydrogen generation, CO2 reduction). Compared with bulk g-C3N4 with partially blocked reactive sites that hinders the participation of g-C3N4 into catalytic reactions, ultrathin g-C3N4 possessing larger specific surface area and higher conductivity has been considered a popular base material for constructing composites catalysts with enhanced photo-/electro-catalytic performances. Methodologies such as morphology control and heterostructure formation are keys in improving catalytic activity of the g-C3N4 -based composite materials. Among the various methodologies exploited, surface and structural engineering (e.g., homojunction and heterostructure construction) has become one compelling and feasible approach in enhancing photo-/electro-catalytic performances of the g-C3N4 based material. Due to the flexibility and opened-up 2D flat morphology nature of g-C3N4 nanosheets, g-C3N4 nanosheets can be considered an ideal substrate material for constructing g-C3N4 -based composites (e.g., metal/g-C3N4 , inorganic semiconductor/g-C3N4 , polymer/g-C3N4 heterostructure etc). The objective of this project is to generate fundamental knowledge on construction of highly efficient and low-cost photo-/electro-catalysts with simplified synthesis steps for practical applications. Noble metal (e.g., Pt, Au, Cu) clusters are expected to be incorporated into the g-C3N4 system via control on polymerization processes. Homogeneous distribution of these metal clusters in the g-C3N4 nanosheets system can be of significant importance in causing drastic increase in photo-/electro-catalytic activities of the composite material. Exploitation on novel approaches of the synthesis of metal/g-C3N4 based tungsten oxide/transition metal dichalcogenides (e.g., MoS2, SnS2, WS2, with the ability of expanding light response range) composite materials with improved photo-/electro-catalytic activities are also expected. Detailed formation and catalytic reaction mechanisms as well as photo-/electro-catalytic performances (involving CO2 photoreduction, hydrogen evolution, benzene oxidation) of these heterostructure materials are expected to be exploited, particularly, the magnetic and photoelectrochemical properties of the Cu clusters modified g-C3N4 composites will be systematically investigated. These novel catalyst technologies that aims to enhance the energy conversion efficiency and to reduce greenhouse emission, can be key in renewable carbon-neutral fuel production and supporting environmental protection, particularly in achieving the Green Deal objectives.

Project details

Project title: Noble metal clusters incorporated g-C3N4 based heterostructures toward solar-driven photo- and electrochemical conversion
Principal Investigator: dr Xiao Zhang
Host institution: Tadeusz Kościuszko Cracow University of Technology
Project duration: 01.10.2022 – 30.09.2024
Project’s website: www.matrasmaterials.com/polonez-bis/

Xiao Zhang