Photogenerated Charge Carriers and Reactive Oxygen Species in ZnO/Au Hybrid Nanostructures with Enhanced Photocatalytic and Antibacterial Activity

Semiconductor nanostructures with photocatalytic activity have the potential for many applications including remediation of environmental pollutants and use in antibacterial products. An effective way for promoting photocatalytic activity is depositing noble metal nanoparticles (NPs) on a semiconductor. In this paper, we demonstrated the successful deposition of Au NPs, having sizes smaller than 3 nm, onto ZnO NPs. ZnO/Au hybrid nanostructures having different molar ratios of Au to ZnO were synthesized. It was found that Au nanocomponents even at a very low Au/ZnO molar ratio of 0.2% can greatly enhance the photocatalytic and antibacterial activity of ZnO. Electron spin resonance spectroscopy with spin trapping and spin labeling was used to investigate the enhancing effect of Au NPs on the generation of reactive oxygen species and photoinduced charge carriers. Deposition of Au NPs onto ZnO resulted in a dramatic increase in light-induced generation of hydroxyl radical, superoxide and singlet oxygen, and production of holes and electrons. The enhancing effect of Au was dependent on the molar ratio of Au present in the ZnO/Au nanostructures. Consistent with these results from ESR measurements, ZnO/Au nanostructures also exhibited enhanced photocatalytic and antibacterial activity. These results unveiled the enhanced mechanism of Au on ZnO and these materials have great potential for use in water purification and antibacterial products.