Graphite oxide (GO) synthesized from the oxidation of graphite powders exhibits p-type conductivity and is active in photocatalytic H2 evolution from water decomposition. The p-type conductivity hinders hole transfer for water oxidation and suppresses O2 evolution. Treating GO with NH3 gas at room temperature tunes the electronic structure by introducing amino and amide groups to its surface. The ammonia-modified GO (NGO) exhibits n-type conductivity in photoelectrochemical analysis and has a narrower optical band gap than GO. Electrochemical analysis attributes the band gap reduction to a negative shift of the valence band. An NGO-film electrode exhibits a substantially higher incident photo-to-current efficiency in the visible light region than a GO electrode. Photoluminescence analyses demonstrate the above-edge emission characteristic of GO and NGO. NH3 treatment enhances the emission by removing nonirradiative epoxy and carboxyl sites on the GO. In half-reaction tests of water decomposition, NGO effectively catalyzes O2 evolution in an aqueous AgNO3 solution under mercury-lamp irradiation, whereas GO is inactive. NGO also effectively catalyzes H2 evolution in an aqueous methanol solution but shows less activity than GO. Under illumination with visible light (λ > 420 nm), NGO simultaneously catalyzes H2 and O2 evolutions, but with a H2/O2 molar ratio below 2. The n-type conductivity of NGO may hinder electron transfer and form peroxide species instead of H2 molecules. This study demonstrates that the functionality engineering of GO is a promising technique to synthesize an industrially scalable photocatalyst for overall water splitting.
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