A microwave-assisted hydrothermal preparation of heterostructured graphitic carbon nitride/bismuth tungsten oxide/reduced graphene oxide nanocomposites (denoted as GBR-T, T = microwave irradiation time) is performed. The prepared GBR-T photocatalysts are identified by employing X-ray diffraction (XRD), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM), time-resolved photoluminescence (TRPL) and nitrogen adsorption-desorption isotherms. The photocatalytic performance of these GBR-T is evaluated by the photocatalytic degradation of ibuprofen (IBP) under the visible light (λ > 420 nm) and solar light irradiation. Among all prepared photocatalysts, ca. 93% of IBP photodegradation can be achieved with a degradation rate constant (k) of 0.011 min−1 under visible-light irradiation upon the optimal microwave-assisted reaction time of 60 min. The improvement is primarily attributable to the higher crystallization degree, specific surface area and increased charge transfer efficiency as verified by XRD, nitrogen adsorption-desorption isotherms and TRPL, respectively. The photocatalytic performance of this catalyst is further enhanced in the photodecomposition of IBP (ca. 98.6%) under sun light irradiation. The electron spin resonance (ESR) and liquid chromatography-mass/mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) studies show that the superoxide radicals and hydroxyl radicals are the dominant active species in the photocomposition of IBP and degradation intermediates are formed through three probable photodegradation pathways. This investigation provides a simple way to prepare triple 2D heterojuction photocatalysts which could be effectively used in the advanced oxidation process for removal of emerging contaminants in wastewater by using renewable energy.
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