E. Nurlaela, S. Ould-Chikh, I. Llorens, J.-L. Hazemann, K. Takanabe
Chemistry of Materials, 27, 5685-5694, (2015)
In a photocatalytic suspension system with a powder semiconductor, the interface between the photocatalyst semiconductor and catalyst should be constructed to minimize resistance for charge transfer of excited carriers. This study demonstrates an in-depth understanding of pretreatment effects on the photocatalytic O2 evolution reaction (OER) activity of visible-light-responsive Ta3N5 decorated with CoOx nanoparticles. The CoOx/Ta3N5 sample was synthesized by impregnation followed by sequential heat treatments under NH3 flow and air flow at various temperatures. Various characterization techniques, including X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), were used to clarify the state and role of cobalt. No improvement in photocatalytic activity for OER over the bare Ta3N5 was observed for the as-impregnated CoOx/Ta3N5, likely because of insufficient contact between CoOx and Ta3N5. When the sample was treated in NH3 at high temperature, a substantial improvement in the photocatalytic activity was observed. After NH3 treatment at 700 °C, the Co0–CoOx core–shell agglomerated cobalt structure was identified by XAS and STEM. No metallic cobalt species was evident after the photocatalytic OER, indicating that the metallic cobalt itself is not essential for the reaction. Accordingly, mild oxidation (200 °C) of the NH3-treated CoOx/Ta3N5 sample enhanced photocatalytic OER activity. Oxidation at higher temperatures drastically eliminated the photocatalytic activity, most likely because of unfavorable Ta3N5 oxidation. These results suggest that the intimate contact between cobalt species and Ta3N5 facilitated at high temperature is beneficial to enhancing hole transport and that the cobalt oxide provides electrocatalytic sites for OER.