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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Zahra Shayegan, Civil Engineering

Modification of Titanium Dioxide for Photocatalytic Degradation of Indoor Volatile Organic Compounds: Under UV and Visible Light

Monday, August 24, 2020 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


The indoor air quality (IAQ) concern has risen since people spend most of their time (>90%) in indoor environments. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are categorized as a major group of gas pollutants. Indoor VOCs, known as hazardous compounds with several proven adverse health effects. Among various purification techniques, a heterogeneous photocatalytic oxidation process (PCO) is a promising technology for removing indoor VOC contaminants. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is the leading candidate for PCO given its unique properties. However, no TiO2-based photocatalysts completely satisfy all practical requirements, considering the photoexcited charge carriers’ short lifetime and a wide band gap requiring ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Moreover, the application of PCO for VOCs degradation is greatly hindered at high humidity levels.

Herein, TiO2 modification techniques that include approaches for overcoming the inherent TiO2 limitations and improving the photocatalytic degradation of VOCs are studied. In this research, strategies for improving TiO2 photocatalyst activities by doping with different metal and/or non-metal ions as well as surface modification have been examined.

Accordingly, the adsorption capacity and photocatalytic activity of P25 and surface fluorinated P25 coated on nickel foam were evaluated for VOCs removal. In addition, the photoactivity of visible-light-driven photocatalysts including; anatase/rutile carbon-doped P25, anatase/brookite cerium-doped TiO2, and anatase/brookite iron-doped TiO2 coated on nickel foam were evaluated for degradation of VOCs under both UV and visible light irradiation. Surface fluorination was then applied to reduce the surface hydrophilicity of Ce-TiO2 and Fe-TiO2 photocatalysts with the optimum Ce and Fe contents. Notably, their photocatalytic performance was investigated in continuous flow mode-of-operation reactors with small residence time, different relative humidity levels, and low-level inlet contaminant concentration. These techniques can improve PCO performance through the following mechanisms: i) by introducing an electron capturing level in the band gap that would generate some defects in the TiO2 lattice and help capture charge carriers and can also be excited under visible irradiation; ii) by slowing down the charge carrier recombination rate and increasing VOCs degradation; and iii) by reducing the surface hydrophilicity, which increases VOCs’ adsorption capacity at high humid conditions.

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