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The main concept of the present activity is the synthesis and application of photocatalytic nanostructured materials for water treatment. Nanomaterials are indeed very efficient photocatalysts due to their large surface/volume ratio. Several nanostructures, such as nanofilms, nanoparticles, nanonuts, nanotubes, nanowires, nanorods, micro- and meso-porous materials are synthesized. The synthesis of nanostructured materials involve different processes, such as: atomic layer deposition, sputtering, laser ablation, chemical etchings, thermal growths, electrochemical methods, electrospinning, chemical co-precipitation. The studied materials are mainly TiO2, ZnO, MoS2 and graphene.

The adopted methods to improve the photocatalytic properties of such nanomaterials are mainly based on the inhibition of the photo-generated electrons–holes recombination (through, for example, noble metals or hetero-junctions), and on the decrease of the band-gap energy (through, for example, doping or dye sensitizers) so to make the material sensitive to VIS light. A drawback of these photocatalysts is the lack of selectivity, indeed, they do not differentiate between highly-hazardous pollutants and low toxicity ones. To overcome this problem, we combine the photocatalysis with the Molecular Imprinting (MI) for the selective degradation of emerging contaminants, such as anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics, and pesticides.

Another important part of the activity is focused on the integration of the photocatalytic nanomaterials on polymer matrix, and in particular, in diverse thermoplastic polymers, in order to avoid the dispersion of the nanomaterials in water. Recently, we have also focalized our attention on the development of 3D graphene/poly-porphyrins hybrid materials. These novel devices possess a high capacity to degrade organic pollutants under visible-light irradiation.

The photocatalytic activity of the materials is tested spectrophotometrically by the degradation of several organic pollutants (dyes, phenols, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, pesticides) and by total organic carbon (TOC) analyzer. In addition, the antibacterial activity is investigated through E. coli bacteria survival. 

The final objective is to reach a TRL 4 for all the investigated systems.

Reference person: Giuliana Impellizzeri


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