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Published: Kem. Ind. 60 (7-8) (2011) 387–403
Paper reference number: KUI-27/2010
Paper type: Review
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Heterogeneous Photocatalysis: Fundamentals and Application for Treatment of Polluted Air

F. Jović and V. Tomašić


The use of heterogeneous photocatalysts for the abatement of environmental problems has received increased attention during the last three decades. The photocatalyst used in most of these studies was titanium dioxide. This fact relates to the unique physical and chemical properties of titanium dioxide and similar semiconductor materials, such as ZnO, MgO,WO3, Fe2O3, CdS, etc. that may be utilized for a wide range of potential applications. Specifically, upon ultraviolet irradiation these materials exhibit photocatalytic activity that enables the oxidative destruction of a wide range of organic compounds and biological species on their surface. In addition, these materials may also exhibit photocatalytically induced superhydrophilicity that converts the hydrophobic character of the surface to hydrophilic when exposed to UV light. This causes the formation of uniform water films on the surface of these materials, which prevents the adhesion of inorganic or organic components and thus retains a clean surface on the photocatalyst. Photocatalytic materials may be deployed on surfaces of various substrates, such as glass, ceramics or metals to provide layers that exhibit photocatalytic activity when they are exposed to light. Excitation of a photocatalyst leads to the creation of electrons and holes in the semiconductor material. Furthermore, these electrons and holes interact with molecules adsorbed on the semiconductor and can induce charge transfer process that results in the degradation of the adsorbate. The commercial potentials of heterogeneous photocatalysis are huge, including medical applications, application in the field of architecture (particularly for the cultural heritage purposes, facade paints, etc.), automotive and food industries (cleaner technologies, non-fogging glass and mirrors, product safety), textile and glass industry, as well as in environmental protection (water and air purification and disinfection). After the discovery that the photocatalytic degradation of organic compounds is generally more efficient in the gas phase than in the liquid phase, and the fact that the treatment cost may be significantly lower than that of the water phase photocatalytic treatment, the scientific interest has shifted towards the application of photocatalysis for air treatment. This paper describes the basics of heterogeneous photocatalysis, mainly on TiO2 and the application of photocatalytic processes for air treatment purposes. Review of more interesting practical application of heterogeneous photocatalysis for the treatment of polluted air is presented. Special efforts are made to describe the technical aspects of the photocatalytic processes and to characterize different photocatalytic reactors in use for air treatment.

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heterogeneous photocatalysis, volatile organic compounds, photoreactor, photocatalyst deactivation