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Photocatalytic degradation properties of Photospheres for waste

water treatment applications

C. J. Pestanaa, R. Prabhua, L. A. Lawtona, P. K. J. Robertsona, T. Johnstonb

Institute for Innovation, Design and Sustainability Research (IDEAS),
Robert Gordon University, St. Andrew’s Street, Aberdeen, AB25 1HG, Scotland
Nanoparticulate Surface Adhesion (NSA) Ltd., Unit 4, Dryden Road, Loanhead,
EH20 9LZ, Scotland

The treatment of water contaminated with traces of toxic organic compounds is a common
problem throughout the world. Advanced oxidation technology based on photocatalysis using
titanium dioxide (TiO2) is one of the emerging approaches for water treatment, especially as a
final step to remove complex organics such as pesticides, hormones or humic acids. The
photocatalytic activity of TiO2 powders and pellets have been extensively studied, to date a
compromise had to be made between the effectiveness of photodegradation and the ease of
removal. While powders display a high rate of degradation the removal after photocatalysis
has been problematic, pellets on the other hand are readily removed from suspension but lack
the efficiency of removal that powders display.

A new product might be able to solve this issue and combine the efficacy of powder based
photocatalysts with the ease of removal of pellet based ones: Photospheres are novel, buoyant,
silica microspheres, coated with a thin layer of TiO2. These microspheres have a higher
surface area compared to pellet type catalysts. This material is an attractive alternative to the
conventional TiO2 powders for this form of advanced oxidative water treatment, as it offers
significant post catalysis handling advantages. Although the photocatalytic activities of TiO2
powders and pellets have been studied for different pollutants, Photospheres have not yet
been examined. We have studied the performance of the Photospheres in photodegradation of
four common organic pollutants (p-cresol, 2-chlorophenol, Acid Orange 74, and
trichloroethylene) in waste water and compared it with the performance of semiconductor
catalyst Degussa P25, which is a nanoparticulate power.

A laboratory based, low volume test reactor, with both a sparged and stirred system, has been
utilised for this study under UV light. Quantification for all tested pollutants has been carried
out with the help of a HPLC-PDA system. The Photospheres have shown comparable
photodegradation to that of P25 for all four pollutants. Discrepancies in the efficacy between
the two tested photocatalysts are most likely due to differing degrees of initial attachment of
the pollutants to the photocatalysts.