[Researcher of the Month] Effective Use of Photocatalysts to Combat Environmental Problems
Professor Park Jae-woo (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
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Numerous attempts have been made by engineers to apply technology to our everyday problems. Professor Park Jae-woo (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering) tackles one of the most critical problems of our time, environmental pollution, using the special characteristics of nano photocatalysts. His research focuses on resolving the problems caused during the reduction-oxidation process of photocatalysts. Through his research, he has discovered that the use of the Charge Transfer Layer (CTL) is significantly effective, and expects the findings to help organic pollutants decompose through photocatalysts, which will lead to a cleaner society.
For the past 15 years, Park has been conducting research on the development of magnetic-cored dendrimers and nano-photocatalysts for the purpose of environmental purification. According to Park, nano-photocatalysts have the power to commence oxidation in hazardous substances by separating electrons from holes. This process of oxidation converts substances into water and carbon dioxide gas, which are harmless to the environment. However, despite their striking capabilities, photocatalysts have their shortcomings. In his research, Park focused on compromising with the photocatalysts' technical problem.
The problem with the use of photocatalysts
One of the biggest disadvantages of using the reduction-oxidation of photocatalysts is that electrons have the tendency to return to their respective electron holes. Their tendency to recombine after separation lowered the rate at which photocatalysts oxidized harmful substances, and many researchers have sought out ways to prevent the recombination of electrons with the electron holes. The existing methods such as doping, facet, and core-shell merely slow down the rate at which electrons recombine with electron holes and fail to completely separate them. However, Park has succeeded in permanently separating the electrons using the CTL.
How was CTL used?
A photocatalyst which utilizes the CTL is comprised of three components: the photocatalyst which forms a pair of electrons and electron holes, the CTL which moves the electrons selectively, and the collector which accumulates and stores the moved electrons. Here, the CTL, being the main component, carries the electrons while inhibiting their passage through electron holes. As a result, the electron is moved from the photocatalyst to the electron collector, and suppresses them from recombining. What makes Park and his team’s accomplishment so unique is the fact that their work did not stop at only delaying the recombination, as previous methods had done, but also entirely prevented recombination by separating the electrons and shutting down the reverse-travelling by maintaining a high level of catalyst reaction.
The result of the research
“We have conducted two experiments to prove there is an increased activation of catalysts by using the CTL in the mentioned study,” said Park. He continued, “The first, is hydrolysis. A catalyst under the influence of the CTL displayed 78% higher hydrogenative yield than the existing one in the visible ray photography. Then, in the experiment with the subject bisphenol A, which is an organic pollutant, the catalyst showed a very high 93% removal rate after three hours of reaction." Park also believes that catalysts utilizing the CTL can be applied to energy and environment-related fields in an extensive range.
Park expressed gratitude to his graduate school students, whose effort and hard work have made the project possible. “It motivates me to reflect on my mindset when I see students working so hard on the research topic.” He especially thanked Hassan Anwer (Civil and Environmental Engineering, Doctoral program) for his devotion to the research.
Lee Yoon-seo firstname.lastname@example.org
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