Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Edward G. Gillan

First Committee Member

Ned B. Bowden

Second Committee Member

Tori Z. Forbes

Third Committee Member

Johna Leddy

Fourth Committee Member

Lou Messerle


This thesis describes the synthesis, characterization and photocatalytic applications of carbon nitride (C3N4) and titanium dioxide (TiO2) materials. C3N4 was prepared from the thermal decomposition of a trichloromelamine (TCM) precursor. Several different reactor designs and decomposition temperatures were used to produce chemically and thermally stable orange powders. These methods included a low temperature glass Schlenk reactor, a high mass scale stainless steel reactor, and decomposition at higher temperatures by the immersion of a Schlenk tube into a furnace. These products share many of the same structural and chemical properties when produced by these different methods compared to products from more common alternate precursors in the literature, determined by infrared spectroscopy (IR), nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and elemental analysis. C3N4 is capable of utilizing light for photocatalysis due to its moderate band gap (Eg), measured to be between 2.2 and 2.5 eV. This enables C3N4 to be used in the photocatalytic degradation of organic dyes and the production of hydrogen via the water-splitting reaction. C3N4 degraded methylene blue dye to less than 10% of its initial concentration in less than an hour of UV light illumination and 60% under filtered visible light in 150 minutes. It also degraded methyl orange dye to below 20% in 70 minutes under UV light and below 60% in 150 minutes under visible light. Using precious metal co-catalysts (Pt, Pd, and Ag) photo-reduced onto the surface of C3N4, hydrogen was produced from a 10% aqueous solution of triethanolamine at rates as high as 260 μmol h-1 g-1.

C3N4 was also modified by mixing the precursor with different salts (NaCl, KBr, KI, KSCN, and NH4SCN) as hard templates. Many of these salts reacted with TCM by exchanging the anion with the chlorine in TCM. The products were mostly prepared using the high temperature Schlenk tube reactor, and resulted in yellow, orange, or tan-brown products with Eg values between 2.2 and 2.7 eV. Each of these products had subtle differences in the IR spectra and elemental composition. The morphology of these C3N4 products appeared to be more porous than unmodified C3N4, and the surface area for some increased by a factor of 4. These products demonstrated increased activity for photocatalytic hydrogen evolution, with the product from TCM-KI reaching a peak rate as high as 1,300 µmol h-1 g-1. C3N4 was coated onto metal oxide supports (SiO2, Al2O3, TiO2, and WO3) with the goal of utilizing enhanced surface area of the support or synergy between two different semiconductors. These products typically required higher temperature synthesis conditions in order to fully form. The compositions of the SiO2 and Al2O3 products were richer in nitrogen and hydrogen compared to unmodified C3N4. The higher temperature reactions with C3N4 and WO3 resulted in the formation of the HxWO3 phase, and an alternate approach of coating WO3 on C3N4 was used. The degradation of methyl orange showed a significant increase in adsorption of dye for the composites with SiO2 and Al2O3, which was not seen with any of the individual components. The composite between C3N4 and TiO2 showed improved activity for hydrogen evolution compared to unmodified C3N4.

The surface of TiO2 was modified by the reductive photodeposition of several first row transition metals (Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, and Cu). This process resulted in the slight color change of the white powder to shades of light yellow, blue or grey. Bulk elemental analysis showed that these products contained between 0.04-0.6 at% of the added metal, which was lower than the targeted deposit amount. The Cu modified TiO2 had the largest enhancement of photocatalytic hydrogen evolution activity with a rate of 8,500 µmol h-1 g-1, a factor of 17 higher than unmodified TiO2.


carbon nitride, hydrogen evolution, photocatalysis, titanium dioxide


xxi, 203 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 189-203).


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Copyright © 2018 Anthony Tristan Montoya

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