Polyaniline/zinc oxide (PANI/ZnO) composite photocatalysts were prepared from neutral media by in situ chemical oxidation of aniline (ANI) in the presence of different amounts of diethylene glycol (DEG). The PANI/ZnO composite photocatalysts were synthesized to efficiently remove organic dye (acid blue, AB25) from model wastewater. The PANI/ZnO composite photocatalysts were studied with the intention of efficient removal of organic dye (acid blue, AB25) from wastewater to obtain low-cost heterogeneous catalysts that offer high catalytic activity and stability. The conductive PANI polymer, which absorbs Vis irradiation, was used in this work as ZnO absorbs only ultraviolet (UV) irradiation; thus, the composite photocatalysts' activity was broadened into the Vis region. Characterization of the composite photocatalysts was done by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, thermogravimetric analysis, scanning electron microscopy, electric conductivity, UV-Vis spectroscopy, and by specific surface area (SBET) measurements. The composites' photocatalytic activity under solar irradiation was validated by monitoring degradation of the AB25 dye. This study presented that it was possible both to prepare PANI and to prevent ZnO dissolution if in situ polymerization starts from neutral media with the addition of DEG. Additionally, efficient removal of AB25 dye, about 90% in 60 min, was achieved. The first-order rate constants of the photodegradation of AB25 by PANI/ZnO 0.02/0.024/0.04 DEG (and pure ZnO)) were computed to be 0.0272/0.0281/0.0325 (and 0.0062) min-1, indicating that the morphology and surface of the photocatalysts have significantly influenced the catalytic activity.
Keywords: PANI/ZnO composite; acid blue dye; conductive polymer; in situ synthesis; photocatalyst; solar photocatalysis.