Synthesis of Vertically-Aligned Zinc Oxide Nanowires and Their Applications as Photocatalysts
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Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanostructures, especially nanowires, have been one of the most important semiconductive materials used for photocatalysis due to their unique material properties and remarkable performance. In this project, vertically-aligned ZnO nanowires on glass substrate have been synthesized by using the facile hydrothermal methods with the help of pre-coated ZnO seeding layer. The crystalline structure, morphology and UV-Vis transmission spectra of the as-synthesized sample were characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM) and Ultra-violet Visible (UV-Vis) Spectrophotometer. The photocatalytic activity of the sample was examined for the photocatalytic degradation of methyl orange (MO) as the test dye in aqueous solution under UV-A irradiation. The extent of direct hydrolysis of the MO dye under UV light without the photocatalysts was first measured to eliminate the possible contribution from the undesired variables to the overall efficiency. The effects of pH and initial concentration of the MO solution, as well as the nanowire growth time, on the photocatalytic efficiency have been investigated, in order to determine the optimal conditions for photocatalytic applications of ZnO nanowires in the industry. Furthermore, the reproducibility of the experimental methods used in this project was tested to ensure the reliability of the experimental results obtained; and the reusability of the prepared ZnO nanowire arrays were also evaluated to investigate the stability of the products for photocatalytic applications in a large scale. In addition, a micro-chamber based microfluidic device with integrated ZnO nanowire arrays has been fabricated and used for photodegradation studies of MO solution under continuous-flow conditions. As expected, the micro-chamber based approach exhibited much improved photodegradation efficiency as compared to the conventional method using bulk dye solution. The effects of the flow rate and chamber height of the microfluidic device have also been investigated in order to determine the optimal experimental conditions for photodegradation reactions in microfluidic devices.