N2/Ar plasma induced doping of ordered mesoporous TiO2 thin films for visible light active photocatalysis

Syed Z. Islam, Allen Reed, Doo Young Kim, Stephen E. Rankin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


This study reports the rapid and effective nitrogen doping of ordered, mesoporous TiO2 thin films using nitrogen/argon (N2/Ar) plasma. The resulting nitrogen-doped TiO2 (N-TiO2) films show significant enhancement in both visible light absorption and photocatalytic activity. The cubic ordered mesoporous TiO2 thin films are prepared via a sol-gel method using titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4) as precursor and triblock copolymer Pluronic F127 as the template. Following brief calcination, the TiO2 films are treated with N2/Ar plasma under controlled conditions of reactive gas pressure, microwave power, and plasma exposure duration. To vary the degree of nitrogen doping, the plasma exposure time was varied from zero up to 210 min. The nitrogen content of the films increases with plasma exposure duration, up to over 3 at% N. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopic (XPS) analyses and UV-vis absorbance spectra of N-TiO2 films indicate that the incorporated N atoms reduce the band gap of TiO2 and thus enhance the absorption of visible light. Finally, the visible-light photocatalytic activity of N-TiO2 films is determined from the photocatalytic degradation of methylene blue under visible-light illumination (with a 455 nm LED). The N-TiO2 films prepared by 150 min treatment show the optimum photocatalytic activity with a pseudo-first order rate coefficient of 0.24 h-1, which is six times greater than that of undoped TiO2 films. Treatment for excessive time (e.g. 210 min) leads to a decline in photocatalytic activity due to coarsening of the porous structure. The present study suggests that plasma-induced doping is a promising approach to enable the efficient incorporation of heteroatoms into surfactant-templated TiO2 thin films while maintaining their nanostructures, thereby leading to the significant enhancement of visible-light photoactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-128
Number of pages9
JournalMicroporous and Mesoporous Materials
StatePublished - Jan 15 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
DYK appreciates the support from the University of Kentucky faculty start-up grant . Preliminary experiments to develop nitrogen doping and photocatalytic testing methods were performed as part of a U.S. Department of Energy EPSCoR Implementation award supported by grant no. DE-FG02-07-ER46375 . The detailed study as a function of plasma exposure time and further analysis of the spectroscopic and structural characteristics of the doped films was performed as part of an National Science Foundation EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Initiative award supported by grant no. IIA-1355438 . The authors appreciate Dr. Xudong Fan at Michigan State University for the TEM analysis of TiO 2 thin films. The authors would like to acknowledge Richard Passey's help in the STEM measurement at FEI Company. Finally, the authors thank Prof. Y.T. Cheng for access to the XPS instrument.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Mesoporous
  • Photochemistry
  • Sol-gel
  • Surfactant templating
  • Thin films

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry (all)
  • Materials Science (all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials


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