Environmental remediation by an integrated microwave/UV illumination method. V. Thermal and nonthermal effects of microwave radiation on the photocatalyst and on the photodegradation of rhodamine-B under UV/Vis radiation.
ABSTRACT The photocatalyzed degradation (PD) of the cationic rhodamine-B (RhB) dye was examined in aqueous TiO2 dispersions using UV/Vis illumination assisted by microwave radiation (PD/MW). The initial degradation by the PD/MW method is compared to the PD method and to the thermally assisted PD method using conventional heating (PD/TH). Total organic carbon (TOC) assays show that the efficiency of complete mineralization of the dye follows PD/MW > PD/TH > PD > MW. In all cases, microwave radiation alone had no effect on the loss of TOC. The degradation involving microwave radiation was especially efficient when coupled to UV irradiation. By contrast, the extent of degradation of RhB involving suitable excited states through visible irradiation of the dye was rather inefficient when coupled to microwave radiation. Contact angle measurements on the TiO2 photocatalyst particles indicate that microwave radiation also causes an increase in the hydrophobic character of the TiO2 surface, with consequences on the adsorption mode of the dye substrate and thus on the overall mechanism of degradation. Deethylated RhB intermediates were identified by an electrospray ESI ionization mass spectral technique in the positive ion mode and subsequently confirmed by HPLC/absorption spectroscopy. Computer simulations led to estimates of frontier electron densities of all atoms of the RhB structure, affording inferences as to the position of radical attack on RhB. The nitrogen atoms of the dye were all converted to NH4+ ions. The major difference between the thermally assisted PD/TH method and the microwave-assisted PD/MW method showed that nonthermal effects from the microwave radiation impact significantly on the nature of the photocatalyst surface. These effects led to a more efficient photodegradation and mineralization of the dye substrate.