Unraveling the origin of the high photocatalytic properties of earth-abundant TiO2/FeS2 heterojunctions: insights from first-principles density functional theory

Oluwayomi F. Awe, Henry I. Eya, Ricardo Amaral, Nikhil Komalla, Pascal Nbelayim, Nelson Y. Dzade

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Herein, first-principles density functional theory calculations have been employed to unravel the interfacial geometries (composition and stability), electronic properties (density of states and differential charge densities), and charge carrier transfers (work function and energy band alignment) of a TiO2(001)/FeS2(100) heterojunction. Analyses of the structure and electronic properties reveal the formation of strong interfacial Fe-O and Ti-S ionic bonds, which stabilize the interface with an adhesion energy of −0.26 eV Å−2. The work function of the TiO2(001)/FeS2(100) heterojunction is predicted to be much smaller than those of the isolated FeS2(100) and TiO2(001) layers, indicating that less energy will be needed for electrons to transfer from the ground state to the surface to promote photochemical reactions. The difference in the work function between the FeS2(100) and TiO2(001) heterojunction components caused an electron density rearrangement at the heterojunction interface, which induces an electric field that separates the photo-generated electrons and holes. Consistently, a staggered band alignment is predicted at the interface with the conduction band edge and the valence-band edge of FeS2 lying 0.37 and 2.62 eV above those of anatase. These results point to efficient charge carrier separation in the TiO2(001)/FeS2(100) heterojunction, wherein photoinduced electrons would transfer from the FeS2 to the TiO2 layer. The atomistic insights into the mechanism of enhanced charge separation and transfer across the interface rationalize the observed high photocatalytic activity of the mixed TiO2(001)/FeS2(100) heterojunction over the individual components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12869-12879
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number16
StatePublished - Mar 29 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry

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