Understanding the nature and location of hydroxyl groups on hydrated titania nanoparticles

TiO2 nanoparticles (NPs) are intensively studied and widely used due to their huge potential in numerous applications involving their interaction with ultraviolet light (e.g., photocatalysis and sunscreens). Typically, these NPs are in water-containing environments and thus tend to be hydrated. As such, there is a growing need to better understand the physicochemical properties of hydrated TiO2 NPs in order to improve their performance in photochemical applications (e.g., photocatalytic water splitting) and to minimise their environmental impact (e.g., potential biotoxicity).

To help address the need for reliable and detailed data on how nano-titania interacts with water, in a recent study researchers presented a systematic experimental and theoretical study of surface hydroxyl (OH) groups on photoactive anatase TiO2 NPs. Employing well-defined experimentally synthesised NPs and detailed realistic NP models, we obtain the measured and computed infrared spectra of the surface hydroxyls, respectively. By comparing the experimental and theoretical spectra we are able to identify the type and location of different OH groups in these NP systems. Specifically, our study allows us to provide unprecedented and detailed information about the coverage-dependent distribution of hydroxyl groups on the surface of experimental titania NPs, the degree of their H-bonding interactions and their associated assigned vibrational modes. Our work promises to lead to new routes for developing new and safe nanotechnologies based on hydrated TiO2 NPs.

The study has been published in the journal Nanoscale, Issue 13, 2021

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