Gold nanoparticle incorporation into porous titania networks using an agarose gel templating technique for photocatalytic applications
Porous titania networks containing gold nanoparticles have been synthesized and tested in photocatalytic applications. The porous structure was controlled using a templating technique, while a range of gold concentrations and a variety of routes were investigated to incorporate the gold nanoparticles. The influence of these parameters on the final structure (surface area and pore size), the gold crystal size, distribution, and content, and the photocatalytic activity of the porous materials were investigated. UV-vis diffuse reflectance spectra of the Au/TiO2 materials showed strong absorbance at approximately 580 nm, indicating the successful incorporation of the gold species. X-ray diffraction analysis ascertained that the titania materials were crystalline (anatase phase) with gold peaks observed only when the gold content was greater than 0.25 wt %. Gold distribution and content in the materials were measured using secondary ion mass spectrometry and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. From transmission electron microscopy analysis, the gold particle size and distribution varied with both the material preparation method and the concentration of gold used in the synthesis. Photocatalytic activity was dependent on the gold particle size and gold quantity. The highest photocatalytic activity under UV light irradiation as monitored by the photodecomposition of methylene blue was obtained for the Au/TiO2 sample containing 2.0 wt % gold prepared by the deposition of gold onto prefabricated porous TiO2.