Effect of the Support on the Photocatalytic Water Oxidation Activity of Cobalt Oxide Nanoclusters

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Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716, United States
Cite this: ACS Catal. 2012, 2, 12, 2753–2760
Publication Date (Web):November 9, 2012
Copyright © 2012 American Chemical Society
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Oxygen evolution from water driven by visible light is one of the key reactions for solar fuel production. In this paper, we investigated the effect of the support on photocatalytic water oxidation under visible light using cobalt oxide as a multielectron catalyst. A range of supported Co3O4 nanoclusters have been successfully synthesized via wet impregnation and bisolvent methods. Compared with the wet impregnation approach, the bisolvent method allowed us to obtain a high quality catalyst with all the Co3O4 nanoclusters formed inside the mesoporous support using hexane/water as the combination. The resulting catalyst consists of Co3O4 nanoclusters with a very small particle size (∼25 nm) and narrow size distribution. Catalytic water oxidation experiments were performed in [Ru(bpy)3]2+-persulfate (photochemical) and Ce4+/Ce3+ (chemical) systems, and it was found that smaller Co3O4 cluster sizes resulted in higher water oxidation activity. In addition, KIT-6 was found to be a better support than SBA-15, which is likely due to the fact that the 3D porous structure of KIT-6 offers more accessible pores than the 1D channels in SBA-15. To further elucidate the role of support in the photocatalytic oxygen evolution, bare Co3O4 nanoparticles together with two SiO2- and γ-Al2O3-supported ones were investigated. Photocatalytic studies show that both supported Co3O4 nanoparticles exhibited significant enhancement (50–80%) in oxygen evolution activity, compared with bare Co3O4 nanoparticles. However, switching from the SiO2 to γ-Al2O3 support does not significantly change the activities, indicating composition and surface properties of the support do not participate in rate-limiting steps in oxygen evolution. It can be concluded that the major role of catalyst supports in Co3O4-based water oxidation catalysts is to provide a medium to physically separate Co3O4 nanoclusters from aggregation, leading to superior photocatalytic activities.

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FTIR and UV–vis spectra for mesoporous silica supported cobalt oxide catalysts, TOF calculation, and details for control experiments. This information is available free of charge via the Internet at

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