New insights into the photocatalytic mechanism of pristine ZnO nanocrystals: From experiments to DFT calculations

Huan Yan Xu, Si Qun Zhang, Yun Fei Wang, Yan Xu, Li Min Dong, Sridhar Komarneni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Zinc oxide (ZnO) has been regarded as a promising photocatalytic candidate for the purification of wastewaters containing organic contaminants. In this study, six ZnO nanocrystals with the shapes of granule, flake, rod, porous flake, nanosheet-assembled flower, and nanorod-assembled flower were designed and synthesized to investigate the relationship between their photocatalytic activities and morphological features. All these different morphological samples had high-degree of crystallization and belonged to the hexagonal wurtzite structure of ZnO. The morphology had little effect on the light absorption threshold and band gap of these samples, but showed great effect on their adsorption performance, photocatalytic activity, and separation efficiency of photogenerated electrons and holes. The main reactive radicals generated during the photocatalytic process were [rad]O2, [rad]OH, and holes. The theoretical calculations revealed that the polar crystal plane could facilitate the separation of charge carriers. The adsorption and distortion energies for O2 adsorbed onto different crystal planes were found to be much higher than those for H2O. These findings theoretically confirmed why [rad]O2 was the dominant group of reactive radicals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number156225
JournalApplied Surface Science
StatePublished - Mar 30 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Surfaces and Interfaces


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