We employed atomic layer deposition (ALD) to deposit ultrathin SiO2 layers on P25 TiO2 nanoparticles to fabricate TiO2/SiO2 core/shell nanostructures. The ALD process was carried out in a fluidized bed reactor working at atmospheric pressure using SiCl4 and H2O as precursors, enabling the deposition of SiO2 at 100 °C with the ability to control the thickness at the sub-nanometer level. By controlling the thickness of the SiO2 in a very narrow range, i.e., below 2 nm, the photocatalytic activity of TiO2 can be tuned. In particular, an enhancement was obtained for the SiO2 layers with a thickness below 1.4 nm, in which the layer with a thickness of about 0.7 nm exhibited the highest photocatalytic activity; for SiO2 layers thicker than 1.4 nm, the photocatalytic activity was strongly suppressed. The photocatalytic activity enhancement and the degradation mechanism of RhB by the TiO2/SiO2 photocatalysts were investigated by combining X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, UV–Vis absorption spectroscopy, photoluminescence spectroscopy and the aid of charge carrier and radical scavengers. Our findings have revealed an improvement of photogenerated charge separation due to the SiO2 coating and the dominating role of hydroxyl radicals in the degradation of RhB.
- Atmospheric pressure atomic layer deposition
- Fluidized bed reactor
- Low-temperature deposition
- TiO/SiO core/shell nanoparticles
- Ultrathin SiO coating