Structural evolution of titanium dioxide during reduction in high- pressure hydrogen

S Selcuk and XH Zhao and A Selloni, NATURE MATERIALS, 17, 923-+ (2018).

DOI: 10.1038/s41563-018-0135-0

The excellent photocatalytic properties of titanium oxide (TiO2) under ultraviolet light have long motivated the search for doping strategies capable of extending its photoactivity to the visible part of the spectrum. One approach is high-pressure and high-temperature hydrogenation, which results in reduced 'black TiO2' nanoparticles with a crystalline core and a disordered shell that absorbs visible light. Here we elucidate the formation mechanism and structural features of black TiO2 using first-principles-validated reactive force field molecular dynamics simulations of anatase TiO2 surfaces and nanoparticles at high temperature and under high hydrogen pressures. Simulations reveal that surface oxygen vacancies created upon reaction of H-2 with surface oxygen atoms diffuse towards the bulk material but encounter a high barrier for subsurface migration on 001 facets of the nanoparticles, which initiates surface disordering. Besides confirming that the hydrogenated amorphous shell has a key role in the photoactivity of black TiO2, our results provide insight into the properties of the disordered surface layers that are observed on regular anatase nanocrystals under photocatalytic water-splitting conditions.

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