Pollution of aquatic bodies by trace pollutants has become a major environmental problem. A great number of these compounds, at the ng L-1 to the µg L-1 level (often referred to as micro-pollutants), have been detected in various compartments of the aquatic environment worldwide. This indicates the ineffectiveness of the widespread currently most frequently applied conventional biological treatment processes to remove adequately such compounds from the domestic wastewaters. Accordingly, advanced treatment processes may be necessary to provide further reduction of these compounds, in order to minimize environmental and human exposure.
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Advances in chemical water and wastewater treatment have led to a range of processes termed advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) to be developed. Heterogeneous photocatalysis is a catalytic process occurring on the surface of semiconductor materials under the irradiation of photons. By far the most researched photocatalyst is TiO2, because it exhibits several advantages, such as high photocatalytic efficiency, photochemical stability, non-toxicity and relatively low cost.
At present, there are three major drawbacks of heterogeneous TiO2 photocatalysis that restrict its practical application: (i) the rather small (<10%) quantum yield of the process, resulting from the fast electron/hole recombination; (ii) the relatively narrow light-response range of TiO2 and (iii) the need of post-separation and recovery of the catalyst particles from the reaction mixture in aqueous slurry systems.
In this respect, the aim of the present project is to employ novel composite photocatalysts with enhanced photocatalytic activity, such as TiO2 coupled with graphene, simple and efficient methods for synthesizing TiO2 catalysts coupled with graphene, and to study their photocatalytic performance under solar radiation for the degradation of various emerging organic pollutants, thus opening up new opportunities in next generation photocatalyst systems.