Photocatalytic Aided Removal of Nitrogen Oxides and VOCs from Outdoor Environment: Graphene as a Highway for Electron Mobility in TiO2 Nanoparticles

Outdoor and indoor air pollution is a global environmental concern in modern society. Although many policies and regulations on air quality have been promulgated worldwide over the past decades, airborne pollution still negatively affects health and therefore the life-style of human beings. One of the strategies to challenge this problem might be reducing the amount of airborne pollutant by mineralising them via photoinduced reactions. Photocatalytic oxidation of gaseous pollutants via titanium dioxide is one of the most investigated solar photochemical reactions. In this research work, by means of a green sol-gel procedure, we have coupled titania to graphene (0.5 and 1.0 wt%) aiming to increase the solar photocatalytic activity of the produced hybrid materials. The photocatalytic reactions were assessed by monitoring the removal of nitrogen oxides and two different volatile organic compounds (benzene and isopropanol). Photocatalytic mechanism was investigated by means of EPR spin trapping experiments.Our results highlight the exceptional characteristics of the TiO2/graphene hybrid material (1.0 wt% graphene), and its suitability for multi-purpose applications in the field of environmental remediation. Compared to unmodified titania, the hybrid material with 1.0 wt% graphene shows a clear enhancement in the photocatalytic removal of those hazardous pollutants – corresponding to more than twice the photocatalytic degradation rate. In addition, the same material is highly stable and shows fully recyclability over repeated tests. Hybrid titania-graphene materials could thus be exploited to grant a safer outdoor and indoor environments, having a beneficial impact on public health and thus on the quality of our lives.