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Journal of Nanomaterials
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 235879, 9 pages
The Progress of Nanocrystals Doped with Rare Earth Ions
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanchang University, Nanchang 330031, China
Received 29 September 2011; Revised 3 November 2011; Accepted 3 November 2011
Academic Editor: William W. Yu
Copyright © 2012 Hai Liu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
In the past decades, TiO2 nanocrystals (NCs) have been widely studied in the fields of photoelectric devices, optical communication, and environment for their stability in aqueous solution, being nontoxic, cheapness, and so on. Among the three crystalline phases of TiO2, anatase TiO2 NCs are the best crystallized phase of solar energy conversion. However, the disadvantages of high band gap energy (3.2 ev) and the long lifetime of photogenerated electrons and holes limit its photocatalytic activity severely. Therefore, TiO2 NCs doped with metal ions is available way to inhibit the transformation from anatase to rutile. Besides, these metal ions will concentrate on the surface of TiO2 NCs. All above can enhance the photoactivity of TiO2 NCs. In this paper, we mainly outlined the different characterization brought about in the aspect of nanooptics and photocatalytics due to metal ions added in. Also, the paper mainly concentrated on the progress of TiO2 NCs doped with rare earth (RE) ions.
As one of the most popular semiconductors, TiO2 has attracted lots of interest for its high photodegradation efficiency, high photocatalytic activity, high stability, and other advantages [1–4]. Just for these reasons, it has been used to purify polluted water and air, to solve the environmental problems, to be host in the field of solar cell and other relative areas [5, 6]. It is well known that reduction of particle size of crystalline system can result in remarkable modification of their physical and chemical properties which are different from those of microsized materials, as called bulk, because of surface effect and quantum confinement effect of nanometer materials. Thus TiO2 NCs have been one of the research central issues. But TiO2 NCs have the limits of wide band and the trend to transform to rutile from anatase, which has a negative effect to the photocatalytic activity. Some researchers have reported that they could improve the absorption and photocatalytic activity via dye-sensitizing, surface deposition with metal or doping with metal, nonmetal, or their oxides [7–11]. And many nonmetal ions have been successfully doped, such as S, C, F, N, and B [8, 12–16]. Although doping such additives could change the band gap, they will get the oxidative capacity down. Thus, it cannot degrade the adsorption on the surface of nano-TiO2 absolutely. In addition, the structure stability is not that well. Also, doping metal ions to nano-TiO2 has also been studied extensively, such as Pt and W [17–20]. Particularly, many studies have been focused on doping RE ions into TiO2 NCs to improve this situation [21–27]. Because of the perfect ability of titanium oxide to form complexes with the f-orbital from RE, it will adsorb foreign ions around the surface, then enhancing the photocatalytic activity or other optoelectronic characteristics [27, 28]. Among all the RE elements, the Eu/Er ions are considered as the best choice for its excellent physical and chemical performance. The RE ions will form complexation with RE–O–Ti bond on the inner-sphere surface. On the one hand, this bond will inhibit the transformation from anatase to rutile, and on the other hand, the formed complexation will strengthen the ability to absorb foreign ions . In addition, the absorption of TiO2 NCs doped with RE ions may be adjusted from UV to visible light region because the RE ions have large amounts of energy levels. So it is very necessary for researchers to explore the theory and the experimental results on such field. And now it has been widely known that the photocatalytic reactivity of titanium dioxide depends on microstructure, particle size, preparative route, foreign ions, and so forth [29–31]. In this paper, we introduced the recent development of nanocrystalline TiO2 doped with RE ions or other additives.
2. The Approaches to Fabricate TiO2 NCs
The synthesis technique can affect nanocrystalline TiO2 on the structure, purity, morphology, and other qualities. The soft chemical method, such as sol-gel, hydrothermal method, has many advantages, such as easy, cheaper, preparation processes being controlled and has been applied to prepare TiO2 NCs extensively. The comparison among these methods was listed in Table 1.
2.1. Hydrothermal Method
The hydrothermal growth of TiO2 nanowires with using TiO2 powder in a 5–10 M alkali solution has been extensively applied [33, 34]. However, these films fabricated by this method are very thin, and the processing temperature is too high to be large-scale applications. Still, there are two major controversies about the chemical structure and formation mechanism in the hydrothermal process of TiO2 NCs doped with RE ions . These chemical structures and their lattice parameters are shown in Table 2. The chemical composition of NaxH2−x Ti3O7 and NaxH2−x Ti2O4(OH) groups are more acceptable. The replacement of Na+ by H+ during acid washing and the existence of [TiO6] play a very important role in forming the TiO2 nanotubes. And rutile is thought to have a better ability to rearrange than anatase phase. The TiO2 NCs doped with RE ions are usually formed during the sol-gel process [35–38]. After annealing at a relatively high temperature, the RE ions are absorbed on the surface of NCs or enter into the vacancies of lattice just for the theory of solid reaction. Doping of RE ions will inhibit the transformation from anatase to rutile, then it maybe have a high affect on the TiO2 nanotube growing as thin-and-long state. It is important and interesting that Tong et al. reported that the TiO2 NCs-doped Ce4+ ions by hydrothermal method could effectively improve the photocatalytic activity of TiO2 NCs under both UV light irradiation and visible light irradiation due to the important role 4f electron configuration of Ce4+ ions played in interfacial charge transfer and elimination of electron-hole recombination . Yan et al. thought that the expansion of the lattice that probably results from the formation of RE–O–Ti bonds . Also they found that the percentage of anatase phase in RE-doped TiO2 decreasing in the order of Nd3+ > Pr3+ > Y3+ > La3+, as is shown in Table 3, but the degree of red shift increases in the order of La3+ < Pr3+ < Nd3+ < Y3+-doped samples, in contrast with the ion radii of RE. We can conclude, the doping of RE ion will cause the energy transfer with TiO2 conduction or valence band, which will lead red shift due to the transition of the electrons situated in the inner 4f orbital to the 5d orbital (4f-5d transition) or to other 4s orbital (f-f transition) . The applied temperature, treatment time, the type of alkali solution, and the Ti precursor during the hydrothermal treatment  are considered as the predominant factors affecting the fabrication of TiO2 doped with RE. So the study on how the RE ions affect the formation of TiO2 associating with these factors above is very necessary to put the TiO2 NCs into actual application.
2.2. Sol-Gel Synthesis
Sol-gel approach is one of the most practical manners to prepare inorganic materials for its simpleness and low cost. And we can acquire nanoparticles with dimensions ranging from 5 to 100 nm. The material obtained by this method shows many desirable properties such as high surface area, high homogeneity [41–43]. But because the precursor has a so high reactivity that it is hard to control the structure development during the hydrolysis and condensation, which makes it difficult to fabricate monolithic TiO2 NCs [44–48]. Chen et al. have reported C-, N-modified porous monolithic TiO2 NCs through sol-gel technique with average particle size of 7.8 nm . And the reaction rate of decolorization of methyl orange is 0.0026 min−1, which proves that the ratio of the precursors plays an important role in the structure and photo activity. Moreover, Zeng et al. had prepared Eu : TiO2 with a strong photoluminescence emission with the average particle size of 13 nm . As for the RE ions, it is often doped into the solution of precursor in the form of nitrate or chloride. After several hours of stirring, we can obtain transparent sol with RE. Then the sample must be annealing at a certain temperature for a certain period to ensure Ln(III)-TiO2 NCs obtained. Stengl et al. studied the affects of RE (La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Sm, Eu, Dy, Gd) on the physical and chemical properties of titania NCs by sol-gel method , as is shown in Figure 1. They found that best photocatalytic properties in visible light were the TiO2 NCs doped with Nd3+ ions ( min−1 for UV and 0.0143 min−1 for visible light). Xu et al. also got the similar result that Gd3+-doped TiO2 showing the highest reaction activity among all concerned RE-doped samples (Sm3+-, Ce3+-, Er3+-, Pr3+-, La3+-, and Nd3+-doped TiO2 NCs catalyst) because of its specific characteristics , which was similar with the result from the study of El-Bahy et al., who also thought that Gd3+-doped TiO2 NCs are more effective than La3+, Nd3+, Sm3+, Eu3+, and Yb3+ just because Gd3+/TiO2 NCs have the lowest band gap and particle size, and also the highest surface area and pore volume . At the meantime, the conclusion that the synthesized Eu/TiO2 catalyst exhibits strong red emissions under excitation wavelength at 394 and 464 nm from the comparison Eu/TiO2 and Gd/TiO2 by Zhou et al. . As can be concluded that, the relationship between RE and luminescent properties or catalytic efficiency needs further research in the field of TiO2 NCS synthesized by sol-gel technique.
2.3. Anodic Oxidation Method
Since Grimes and coworkers first reported the fabrication of titania nanotube array via anodic oxidation of titanium foil in a fluoride-based solution in 2001 , the studies on precise control and extension of the nanotube morphology, length and pore size, and wall thickness [54, 55] have obtained extensive attention. As is thought that chemical dissolution and electrochemical etching process play an important role in the conformation of nanotubes. And the electrolyte used in this system is always HF or KF, whose concentration has a strong effect on the dimensions and nanotube arrays . Using the anodic potential from 10 to 20 V, self-organized TiO2 NCs can be produced with diameters between 15 nm and 200 nm under specific electrochemical condition [57, 58]. The pH value of the electrolyte will also affect the thickness of TiO2 nanotube layers [58, 59]. Yang et al. used anodization method then obtained TiO2 nanotube arrays with a high surface area , as seen in Figure 2. It can be seen that the length and average outer diameter of this nanotube is 680 nm and 80 nm with a length-to-width aspect ratio about 8.5, which raises the conversion efficiencies to 0.31%, improving surface activities largely. RE ions are usually added into TiO2 NCs during the preparation procedure. After heating at 400°C for a certain time for decomposing the organic compounds brought into during the preparation procedure, the samples are needed to be heated to higher temperature for the insurance of formation of RE compounds in the layers . Graf et al. successfully prepared the TiO2 doped with cerium and gadolinium ions in the anodic oxidation method, and they found that Gd-doped titanium dioxide showed better photocatalytic activity than cerium-doped sample possibly because Gd3+ ions have better stability .
2.4. Other Methods
Nowadays, there are also some other routes to fabricate TiO2 NCs. For example, Liang et al. had studied the effects brought by doping these ions of La, Y, Yb, Eu, Dy into TiO2 NCs with the plasma way . And they found that the effects of pH, sample flow rate and volume, elution solution, and interfering ions on the separation of analytes all have influence on the photocatalytic activity. Wu et al. systematically explored the effects for lanthanum-ions-doped TiO2 NCs by plasma spray as well .
Template-assisted method is one of the most popular ways to fabricate such material. Attar et al. successfully prepared well-aligned anatase and rutile TiO2 nanorods and nanotubes with a diameter of about 80–130 nm via sol-gel template method . Also, magnetron sputtering method, electrophoretic deposition (EPD), and many other methods are employed to fabricate TiO2 NCs doped with RE ions [66–70]. All above methods also could create nanomaterial with perfect morphology and high photocatalytic activity.
3. The Effect Caused by RE Ions
In this section, we mainly discuss the change of optical properties and the morphology caused by the RE ions doped or codoped with RE and other non-RE.
3.1. The Theory of the Effect Caused by RE Ions
The energy transfer from TiO2 NCs to RE may easily take place since RE ions have a plenty of energy levels. For example, 5D1→7F1, 5D0→7Fj transitions of Eu3+ ions will cause visible luminescence peaking at 543, 598, 620, 665, and 694 nm . In addition, the RE-doped TiO2 NCs almost have the capacity to enhance photocatalytic activity due to following properties of as-prepared RE3+/TiO2 composites: (i) quantum size effect; (ii) unique textural properties (mesoporosity with larger BET surface areas and pore sizes); (iii) interesting surface compositions (more hydroxyl oxygen and adsorbed oxygen and some Ti3+ species existed at the surface of the products with respect to pure TiO2) , while some thought that the increase in photoactivity is probably due to the higher adsorption, red shifts to a longer wavelength, and the increase in the interfacial electron transfer rate [41, 51].
3.2. The Effect Caused by RE Ions Doped Only
TiO2 NCs doped with RE ions can concentrate organic pollutants on the semiconductor surface just because lanthanide ions can form complexes with various Lewis bases including organic acids, amines, aldehydes, alcohols, and thiols by the interaction of the functional groups with their f orbital, which can enhance the efficiency of separation between electrons and holes and prohibit the transformation from anatase to rutile [27, 28, 73]. Accordingly, it can prolong the photoresponse in visible region. Du et al. studied the effect of surface OH population on the photocatalytic activity of RE-doped P25-TiO2 systematically , listed in Table 4. It can be seen that Pr, La, Ce, Y, and Sm ions in TiO2 Ncs have a significant inhibition of phase transformation, especially at 800°C or above. And the anatase fraction follows the decreasing order Pr > La > Ce > Y > Sm. At the meantime, we can also know that the photocatalytic degradation of methylene blue over RE oxide-modified TiO2 is mainly dependent on the quantity of a specific anatase—OH group. Cacciotti et al. successfully prepared La-, Eu-, and Er-doped TiO2 NCs via electrospinning technique , which also can raise the transformation temperature up to 900°C. Wang et al. also synthesized TiO2 NCs doped with Eu, Er, Ce, Pr by this method . And the particles obtained had an average diameter of 10 nm with remarkable luminescent properties. It can be clearly seen that most of the RE ions have the ability to inhibit the transformation from anatase to rutile. Li et al. reported that the luminescent intensity can be enhanced through energy transfer from Eu3+ to TiO2 NCs . Jeon and Braun synthesized Er3+-doped TiO2 nanoparticles (−50 nm) through a simple hydrothermal method starting from sol-gel precursors with anatase phase . They observed obviously enhanced luminescence from thin films of the nanoparticles by annealing at 500°C. A sharp emission peak at 1532 nm with a fill width at half maximum (FWHM) of 5 nm was observed, which excludes the possibility that Er3+ ions exist under a free oxide form in the TiO2 matrix, with contrast with the emission band of erbium oxide nanoclusters synthesized through a microemulsion technique centered at 1540 nm with an FWHM of 22 nm . Patra et al. also studied the upconversion luminescence of Er doped into TiO2 NCs under 975 nm excitation .
However, there are two major controversies still exist . One is whether the lifetime of transition metal or RE ions-doped TiO2 semiconductor NCs can be shortened by orders of magnitude caused by quantum size effects. The other is that lanthanide ions incorporate into the lattice sites of the host or be adsorbed on the surface because of the different radius and valence between RE ions and cationic of host. Chen et al. prepared TiO2 : Eu anatase NCs (8–12 nm) by a hydrothermal method and proved that Eu3+ occupy three sites in NCs host through site selective spectra at 10 K , as shown in Figure 3. By means of site selective spectra, at least three kinds of luminescence sites of Eu3+ are identified and separated from each other. Two sites (Sites II and IU) exhibit sharp emission and excitation peaks, which are ascribed to the lattice site with ordered crystalline environment (inside). The other site (Site I) associated with the distorted lattice sites near the surface shows significantly broadened fluorescence lines. very strong Eu3+ luminescence from major Sites II and III plus other minor sites can be seen under the band gap excitation at 343.1 nm. The energy transfer from the host to Eu3+ confirms that Eu3+ ions have been effectively incorporated into the TiO2 NCs. But it should be noted that there may be some RE ions locating at surface sites. So it always has a long way to explore the function caused by lanthanide ions doped.
3.3. The Effect Caused by Codoped RE Ions and Other Ions
Besides, Xu et al. and Ma et al. had prepared the TiO2 NCs codoped with RE ions and nonmetal ions by the sol-gel method [82, 83], which had better adsorption activity than those doped with RE ions only. Xu et al. reported that Eu-, N-codoped TiO2 NCs exhibited a significant red shift to the visible area , as shown in Figure 4. It is obvious that Eu-, N-codoped TiO2 NCs show the highest adsorption activity. And we could also know that Eu-, N-codoped TiO2 NCs have a smaller particle with a good inhibition from anatase to rutile. Besides, Ma et al. also obtained Sm-, N-codoped TiO2 NCs by a similar way , which was similar to the result of Eu-, N-codoped TiO2 NCs. Thus, we can conclude the absorption of TiO2 NCs could be modulated from UV light to visible light because of the addition of RE ions, which can meet the application. It is thought that the metal ions (such as lanthanide ions) doped TiO2 NCs will expand the photoresponse area. Meantime, the nonmetal ions will inhibit the combination of photogenerated electrons and holes. And it also has the ability to suppress the transformation from anatase to rutile. So it is hopeful to improve the photocatalytic activity by adding the metal ions with nonmetal elements.
In conclusion, TiO2 NCs are chosen as one of the most potential candidates to purify polluted water and air, to solve the environmental problems, and to be host in the field of solar cell and other relative areas for its excellent stability, low cost, and friendliness to environment. Adding RE ions to TiO2 can suppress the transformation to rutile from anatase, absorb the organic pollutant on the surface of the base, then improving the photocatalytic activity. So RE-doping nano-TiO2 has been studied extensively, but the application situation is not that affirmative. The author suggested that the development orientation include these aspects below.(1)explore the influent theory about the co-doping ions into nano-TiO2, such as metal and metal, metal and nonmetal, nonmetal and nonmetal, especially the area of metal and nonmetal coexists, (2)investigate the way to improve the catalytic properties, without sacrificing the oxidation activity, especially adjusting the absorption range,(3)search for the ideal ways to manufacture RE-doped TiO2 NCs so as to modulate the absorption to visible region and to meet its industrial needs.
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