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The effect of gold loading and particle size on photocatalytic hydrogen production from ethanol over Au/TiO2 nanoparticles


Catalytic hydrogen production from renewables is a promising method for providing energy carriers in the near future. Photocatalysts capable of promoting this reaction are often composed of noble metal nanoparticles deposited on a semiconductor. The most promising semiconductor at present is TiO2. The successful design of these catalysts relies on a thorough understanding of the role of the noble metal particle size and the TiO2 polymorph. Here we demonstrate that Au particles in the size range 3–30 nm on TiO2 are very active in hydrogen production from ethanol. It was found that Au particles of similar size on anatase nanoparticles delivered a rate two orders of magnitude higher than that recorded for Au on rutile nanoparticles. Surprisingly, it was also found that Au particle size does not affect the photoreaction rate over the 3–12 nm range. The high hydrogen yield observed makes these catalysts promising materials for solar conversion.

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Figure 1: Structural analysis of a typical Au/TiO2 photocatalyst of this study for hydrogen production showing strong contact between Au and the TiO2 support.
Figure 2: Particle size distribution of Au on TiO2 photocatalysts for hydrogen production, as determined by high-angle annular dark-field scanning TEM.
Figure 3: H2 photo-production from ethanol over Au/TiO2 anatase (A) and rutile (R) as a function of Au loading.
Figure 4: Dark-field TEM (top) and XPS Au 4f (bottom) of the Au/TiO2 anatase and rutile photocatalysts.

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The authors would like to thank A. Goguet from Queen University of Belfast for discussions on gold particles. H.I. thanks Aberdeen City Council for a start-up grant to establish the Energy Futures Centre. The authors acknowledge the support of HEC Pakistan for the PhD scholarship to M.A.N. J.L. is grateful to grant CTQ2009-12520 (MICINN) and to ICREA Academia program (Generalitat de Catalunya), Spain.

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M.M. and M.A.N. conducted the photoreaction experiments, G.I.N.W. made the catalytic materials, J.L. produced the HRTEM and TEM images and provided the interpretation, H.I. conducted the XPS measurements, supervized M.M. and wrote the manuscript, J.B.M. supervised M.A.N., M.A.K. provided data interpretation for the photoreaction and R.H.F. provided data interpretation for the characterization of the materials.

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Correspondence to H. Idriss.

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Murdoch, M., Waterhouse, G., Nadeem, M. et al. The effect of gold loading and particle size on photocatalytic hydrogen production from ethanol over Au/TiO2 nanoparticles. Nature Chem 3, 489–492 (2011).

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