Zinc oxide (ZnO) displays superior properties as a photocatalyst, compared to the more widely used TiO2. However, widespread application of ZnO is hampered by its high photo-corrosion in aqueous environments under UV irradiation. A systematic investigation of the effect of (i) post-production annealing, (ii) dissolved oxygen levels during photocatalysis and (iii) reactor configuration on the stability and photocatalytic activity (PCA) of ZnO nanowires, grown on either flat or circular supports, was conducted. Results show, for the first time, that it is possible to significantly enhance the photo-corrosion resistance of ZnO in water under UV irradiation while also increasing PCA. Oxygen plasma post-annealing of ZnO nanowire films led to a 46% higher photocatalytic degradation of phenol compared to as-produced films. In oxygen-saturated solutions, both thermally and oxygen plasma annealed ZnO revealed similar photo-corrosion resistance. Switching from a batch to a flow-through reactor, tripled phenol photodegradation under the same irradiation conditions from 19 to 57% due to enhanced mass transfer, while significantly increasing the stability and re-usability of the ZnO, with 5 repeat uses over 3 days showing no decrease in PCA. These results pave the way to more widespread use of photo-corrosion resistant ZnO in the degradation of organic pollutants in water.
Keywords: Anodization; Flow reactor; Phenol; Photo-corrosion; Photocatalysis; Zinc oxide.
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