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Publication on ACS Catalysis

Reversible Plasmonic Switch in a Molecular Oxidation Catalysis Process


Currently, plasmonic nanoparticles (PNPs) are considered highly efficient enhancers of catalytic processes. Herein, we report a concept where plasmonic Ag0@SiO2 nanoparticles can reversibly switch-off an oxidation catalytic process under light-excitation. The catalytic process recommences when illumination is stopped. The catalytic system under study is a well-characterized molecular LMnII catalyst that performs alkene oxidation, with H2O2 as the oxidant. Three types of plasmonic core–shell Ag0@SiO2 nanoparticles, with a SiO2 shell of varying thickness (0.1–5 nm), were utilized in this study. Using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy, we have identified the reversible inhibition of the transient LMnIV═O intermediate formation, to be the key-step of the photoinduced pause of the catalytic process by the Ag0@SiO2 PNPs. Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) and redox potential data show that the plasmonic Ag0@SiO2 NPs exert a moderate SERS effect on the LMnII catalyst, and a considerable lowering of the solution redox potential Eh. Our data show that near-field generation is not the sole origin of inhibition of LMnIV═O formation, while plasmonic heating was insignificant. We suggest that the generation of hot electrons by the Ag0@SiO2 PNPs is implicated, along with near-field generation, in the reversible switch-off of the catalytic process.

Publication on Scientific Reports

Control of monomeric Vo’s versus Vo clusters in ZrO2−x for solar-light H2 production from H2O at high-yield (millimoles gr−1 h−1)


Pristine zirconia, ZrO2, possesses high premise as photocatalyst due to its conduction band energy edge. However, its high energy-gap is prohibitive for photoactivation by solar-light. Currently, it is unclear how solar-active zirconia can be designed to meet the requirements for high photocatalytic performance. Moreover, transferring this design to an industrial-scale process is a forward-looking route. Herein, we have developed a novel Flame Spray Pyrolysis process for generating solar-light active nano-ZrO2−x via engineering of lattice vacancies, Vo. Using solar photons, our optimal nanoZrO2−x can achieve milestone H2-production yield,> 2400 μmolg−1 ­h−1 (closest thus, so far, to high photocatalytic water splitting performance benchmarks). Visible light can be also exploited by nano-ZrO2−x at a high yield via a two-photon process. Control of monomeric Vo versus clusters of Vo’s is the key parameter toward Highly-Performing-Photocatalytic ZrO2−x. Thus, the reusable and sustainable ZrO2−x catalyst achieves so far unattainable solar activated photocatalysis, under large scale production.