Mechanism of photocatalytic disinfection using titania-graphenecomposites under UV and visible irradiation

Brenda R. Cruz-Ortiz, Jeremy Hamilton, Cristina Pablos, Lourdes Díaz-Jiménez, Dora A. Cortés-Hernández, Preetam K. Sharma, María Castro-Alférez, Pilar Fernandez-Ibanez, PSM Dunlop, JA Byrne

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Photocatalysis has been shown to be effective for the disinfection of water contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms. In order to increase the solar efficiency of photocatalysis on titanium dioxide (TiO2) it is necessary to modify the TiO2 so that visible photons may be utilised in addition to the UV. TiO2 – reduced graphene oxide composites (TiO2-rGO) were prepared by the photocatalytic reduction of exfoliated graphene oxide (GO) using P25 (Evonik-Aeroxide) as the photocatalyst. The composites were tested for the inactivation of E. coli as the model microorganism under UV–Vis and visible only irradiation at relatively low light intensities to help elucidate the mechanism of disinfection. The results showed a 6 log inactivation of E. coli after 120 min of treatment with unmodified TiO2-P25 and the same level of inactivation was achieved after 90 min with TiO2-rGO under UV–Vis irradiation. Under visible irradiation only, the TiO2-rGO gave a 5.3 log inactivation of E. coli following 180 min of treatment whereas the unmodified P25 gave only a 1.7 log-reduction in the same time, similar to that observed in the light control. Using probes, the main reactive oxygen species involved in the disinfection process were determined to be hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radicals, and singlet oxygen under UV–Vis irradiation; and only singlet oxygen under visible only irradiation. Scavenger studies were also performed to further elucidate the mechanism of disinfection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-186
Number of pages8
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Early online date25 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 May 2017

Bibliographical note

The authors acknowledge the economic support provided by the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyTMexico) for the financial support (project 138286) and the scholarship for doctoral studies and sponsoring a research visit to NIBEC
for BRCO.


  • Disinfection
  • TiO2-rGO
  • Visible light activity
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Photocatalytic mechanism
  • Scavenger studies


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