Modern Research in Catalysis, 2013, 2, 6-12 Published Online September 2013 (
Simultaneous Hydrogen Production with the Degradation
of Naphthalene in Seawater Using Solar Light-Responsive
Carbon-Modified (CM)-n-TiO2 Photocatalyst
Yasser A. Shaban1,2
1Marine Chemistry Department, Faculty of Marine Sciences, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, KSA
2National Institute of Oceanography & Fisheries, Qayet Bay, Alexandria, Egypt
Received July 21, 2013; revised August 15, 2013; accepted August 21, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Yasser A. Shaban. 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.
The simultaneous photocatalytic production of hydrogen and degradation of naphthalene in seawater was successfully
achieved using carbon modified titanium oxide (CM-n-TiO2) nanoparticles under natural sunlight illumination. Com-
pared to unmodified titanium oxide (n-TiO2), CM-n-TiO2 nanoparticles exhibited significantly higher photocatalytic
efficiency. It is considered that carbon modification is responsible for the significant enhancement in the observed
photoactivity. The experimental results indicated that the simultaneous production of hydrogen and degradation of
naphthalene was favorable at pH 8 and optimal catalyst dose of 1.0 g·L1. The solar photocatalytic degradation of na-
phthalene in seawater using CM-n-TiO2 successfully fitted using Langmuir-Hinshelwood model, and can be described
by pseudo-first order kinetic model.
Keywords: Photocatalysis; Titanium Oxide; Carbon Modification; Hydrogen Production; Naphthalene
1. Introduction
Photocatalysis on semiconductor surfaces has attracted
considerable attention in recent years as a potential means
for water splitting to produce hydrogen [1-8], and miner-
alization of organic pollutants present in water and waste-
water [9-18]. Among many semiconductor oxides, tita-
nium dioxide (n-TiO2) has been proven to be the most
promising semiconductor due to its optical and electronic
properties, low cost, high level of photocatalytic activity,
chemical stability and non-toxicity. However, its utiliza-
tion in the solar light is hampered by the fact that it is a
UV absorber. Its wide band gap (3.0 - 3.2 eV) limits its
photoresponse in the ultraviolet region which is only a
small fraction (~5%). Therefore, several attempts were
made to extend its optical response to the visible spectral
range by doping with transition metal [19,20], nitrogen
[21,22], and sulfur [23]. Recently, it has been reported
that carbon modification of n-TiO2 lowered its bandgap
energy to 2.32 eV, and thereby exhibited higher photore-
sponse [3].
The principle of photocatalysis on titanium dioxide
semiconductor is based on the conversion of photon en-
ergy to chemical energy. The elementary mechanism of
this process includes a number of steps, which have been
exhaustively described in the literature [24,25]. Illumina-
tion of TiO2 by light with energy (hν) greater than or
equal to the bandgap energy (Eg) of TiO2 elevates elec-
tron in the valence band (VB) to the conduction band
(CB), and a positive hole is formed in the valence band
(Equation (1)). The conduction band electron (cb
) is
strongly reducing, and the valence band hole (vb
) is
strongly oxidizing. At the external TiO2 surface, the po-
sitive hole and the excited electron can take part in redox
reactions with adsorbed groups.
TiO hυcb vb
 (1)
The photoinduced production of hydrogen from water
is attained by photogenerated electrons (cb
e), provided
that their energy is sufficient to reduce protons toward
hydrogen molecules (Equation (3)). To achieve this pro-
cess, the CB level should be more negative than hydro-
gen production level (
) while the VB should be
more positive than water oxidation level (
) for
efficient oxygen production from water by photocataly-
HO112O 22H
opyright © 2013 SciRes. MRC
2H2H g
e  (3)
One of the major disadvantages of semiconductor pho-
tocatalytic system is that, the photo-generated electrons
and holes can recombine in bulk or on surface of the se-
miconductor within a very short time, resulting in reduc-
tion in the photocatalytic efficiency. To resolve this pro-
blem, electron donors (sacrificial reagents or hole scaven-
gers) were added to react irreversibly with the photogen-
erated VB holes (vb ), thereby suppressing the electron-
hole recombination [26,27]. If this sacrificial agent is a
pollutant present in water or wastewater, the positive
hole (vb) would oxidize either pollutant directly (Equa-
tion (4)) or water to produce OH radical (Equation (5)).
Consequently, enhancement of the H2 production rate with
simultaneous degradation of the organic substrate can be
obtained. A simplified diagram illustrating the simulta-
neous photocatalytic production of hydrogen and degra-
dation of organic compound using TiO2 under illumina-
tion of light is presented in Figure 1.
Organic pollutantsCOg
h (4)
OHOrganic pollutanOtC g (6)
The vast majority of researches on TiO2 photocatalysis
have focused on a single process; either the photode-
gradation of pollutants or hydrogen generation under il-
lumination of artificial UV light or simulated sunlight.
Despite the importance of seawater as it has been con-
sidered to supplement the limited sources of water avail-
able for drinking, as well as for the production of hydro-
gen energy [28], most of the studies on photocatalytic
hydrogen production and degradation of pollutants have
been performed using pure water. Based on the previous
considerations, the present study focused on the synthesis
of visible light active carbon-modified (CM)-n-TiO2 na-
noparticles that is capable of harvesting the maximum
solar light in the visible region. The simultaneous pro-
duction of hydrogen and degradation of naphthalene, as a
Figure 1. A simplified diagram of the simultaneous photo-
catalytic production of hydrogen and degradation of or-
ganic compound using TiO2 under illumination of light.
sacrificial agent, in natural seawater was investigated us-
ing the synthesized photocatalyst under illumination of
real sunlight. The effects of photocatalyst loading, naph-
thalene concentration, and pH on the photocatalytic per-
formance were also studied.
2. Experimental
2.1. Synthesis and Characterization of n-TiO2
and CM-n-TiO2 Nanoparticles
Regular (unmodified) titanium dioxide (n-TiO2) nano-
particles were synthesized by hydrolysis and oxidation of
titanium trichloride (TiCl3 12% in hydrochloric acid (5%
- 12%), Sigma-Aldrich) in an aqueous medium. Visible
light active carbon modified titanium dioxide (CM-n-
TiO2) nanoparticals were synthesized by a sol-gel method
using titanium butoxide (Ti[O(CH2)3CH 3]4, Fluka, 97%),
a carbon-containing precursor, as a molecular precursor
of TiO2 as well as a carbon source. Details on the proce-
dures used for catalysts preparation and characterization
can be found elsewhere [18].
2.2. Photocatalytic Experiments
All solar photocatalytic experiments were carried out at
the Faculty of Marine sciences, Obhur, Jeddah, KSA, in
the daytime between 11:00 am to 15:00 pm, during May-
June, 2013. Natural seawater samples were collected
from Sharm Obhur, Jeddah, KSA. Before spiking with
different concentrations of naphthalene, seawater sam-
ples were passed through Whatman GFC to remove any
solid particles. Experimental set up consisted of a mag-
netically stirred 500 mL top-covered Pyrex glass photo-
reactor loaded with the seawater solution containing dif-
ferent concentrations of naphthalene ranging from 5 to
20 ppm, then the synthesized photocatalyst (n-TiO2 or
CM-n-TiO2) was added. Prior to the reaction, the mixture
was purged with N2 gas (99.999%) to remove any atmo-
spheric oxygen. The photocatalytic reactor was then di-
rectly exposed to natural sunlight. The average solar in-
tensity was about 1200 W·m2, measured by Field Scout
Light Sensor Reader (Spectrum Technologies, Inc.) equip-
ped with 3670i Silicon Pyranometer Sensor. The amount
of photogenerated hydrogen was analyzed using a gas
chromatograph (Bruker, GC-450), equipped with a ther-
mal conductivity detector (TCD), high purity Ar (99.999%)
was used as a carrier gas. Analysis of naphthalene con-
tent in solution has been achieved with the use of a Shi-
madzu UV-VIS Spectrophotometer (Model PharmaSpec
UV-1700). Prior to analysis, aliquots of treated seawater
samples were regularly withdrawn from the reactor and
centrifuged immediately to remove the catalyst. The su-
pernatant was then immediately analyzed for its naph-
thalene content. The photodegradation efficiency (η) was
calculated from the decrease of the absorbance of naph-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. MRC
thalene at its maximum absorption wavelength (275 nm)
as follows:
ηCCC 100
 
where Co represents the initial concentration of the na-
phthalene and Ct represents the concentration of naphtha-
lene at solar light irradiation time (t).
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Photocatalytic Activity of n-TiO2 and
In order to examine the photocatalytic efficiency of CM-
n-TiO2, comparison with unmodified n-TiO2 was per-
formed under the same experimental conditions. It is
clearly observed that the photocatalytic efficiency of
CM-n-TiO2 towards the simultaneous photocatalytic pro-
duction of hydrogen and degradation of naphthalene (10
ppm) in seawater under illumination of natural sunlight is
much higher than that of n-TiO2 (Figure 2). The enhanc-
ed photocatalytic activity of carbon modified CM-n-TiO2
nanoparticles can be attributed to carbon modification of
TiO2 [3,5-8,17,18].
3.2. Effect of Solution pH
It is known that the pH of the solution is a key parameter
in the photocatalytic reactions, it can directly influence
the surface charge of the semiconductor, thereby affect-
ing the interfacial electron transfer and the photoredox
process [29]. The possible functional groups on TiO2 sur-
face in water are 2, TiOH, and TiO. The point of
zero charge (pHpzc) of TiO2 is an important factor deter-
mining the distribution of the surface groups.
When pH > pHpzc, the surface of TiO2 is negatively
charged with the species TiO (Equation (8)), and posi-
tively charged with the species at pH < pHpzc
(Equation (9)).
  (8)
The role of pH in the photocatalytic production of H2
and degradation of naphthalene in seawater under illu-
mination of natural sunlight using CM-n-TiO2 was stud-
ied by keeping all other experimental conditions constant
and varying the initial pH of the solution from 3 to 9. As
can be seen in Figure 3, both the production of H2 and
degradation of naphthalene rapidly increased with in-
creasing the pH from 3 to 8, beyond which the photo-
catalytic production of H2 and degradation of naphtha-
lene started to decrease, indicating an optimum pH of ap-
proximately 8 for best performance. As the high redox
potentials of Equation (3) in acidic condition, the forma-
tion of hydroxyl radicals will be thermodynamically un-
Figure 2. Simultaneous degradation of naphthalene (10
ppm) and production of hydrogen in the presence of n-TiO2
and CM-n-TiO2 under illumination of natural sunlight.
Figure 3. Effect of pH on the simultaneous degradation of
naphthalene (10 ppm) and production of hydrogen in the
presence of 1.0 g·L1 of CM-n-TiO2 under illumination of
natural sunlight.
favorable [30]. As a result, the formation of hydroxyl
radicals increased with an increase in pH from 3 to 8,
resulting in an increased photocatalytic efficiency. At pH
higher than 8, the formation of carbonate ions is favor-
able which are effective scavengers of hydroxyl ions and
can reduce the efficiency of photodcatalytic process [31,
3.3. Effect of Catalyst Dose
The influence of CM-n-TiO2 dose on the photocatalytic
production of H2 and degradation of naphthalene (10
ppm) in seawater under illumination of sunlight was in-
vestigated at the optimal pH value (pH 8) to ensure
maximum absorption of efficient solar light photons as
well as to avoid an ineffective excess amount of catalyst
(Figure 4).
Both the photocatalytic degradation rate of naphtha-
lene and the production of H2 increased with the increase
in catalyst dose from 0.5 to 1.0 g·L1. The increase in
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. MRC
Figure 4. Effect of CM-n-TiO2 dose on the simultaneous
degradation of naphthalene (10 ppm) and production of
hydrogen under illumination of natural sunlight.
catalyst amount actually increases the number of active
sites on the photocatalyst surface thus causing an in-
crease in the number of cb and vb which can take
part in photocatalytic processes. Further increase in the
catalyst loading to 1.5 g·L1 slightly decreased the photo-
catalytic efficiency. At catalyst loading beyond the opti-
mum, the tendency toward particles aggregation increas-
es, resulting in a reduction in surface area available for
light absorption and hence a drop in photocatalytic deg-
radation rate [33]. Additionally, the increase of the tur-
bidity of the suspension reduces light penetration due to
the enhancement of light scattering; the result is the de-
crease of the number of activated sites on the TiO2 sur-
face and shrinking of the effective photoactivated volume
of suspension. The interplay of these two processes re-
sulted in a reduced performance of photocatalytic activity
with the overloaded catalyst [34,35]. In this study, the
dosage of 1.0 g·L1 of CM-n-TiO2 can be considered as
the optimal catalyst loading.
3.4. Effect of Initial Naphthalene Concentration
The initial concentration of naphthalene is an important
factor which needs to be taken into account. The effect of
the initial naphthalene concentration on its photodegrada-
tion rate and the photocatalytic production of H2 was
investigated over the range of 5 to 20 ppm at the optimal
conditions of pH 8 and 1.0 g·L1 of CM-n-TiO2 (Figure
5). Both the photoinduced production of H2 (Figure 5(a))
and degradation rate of naphthalene (Figure 5(b)) rapidly
increased with the increase in naphthalene concentration
from 5 to 10 ppm. Further increase of naphthalene con-
centration to 20 ppm, resulted in a remarkable decrease
in the rate of degradation of naphthalene as well as the
production of H2.
This can be explained by the saturation of the limited
number of accessible active sites on the photocatalyst
surface and/or deactivation of the active sites of the ca-
talyst. Several studies have reported that high organic
Figure 5. (a) Rate of photodegradation of naphthalene as a
function of naphthalene concentration at the optimal condi-
tions of pH 8 and 1.0 g·L1 of CM-n-TiO2; (b) Rate of hy-
drogen evolution as a function of solar irradiation time at
the optimal conditions of pH 8 and 1.0 g·L1 of CM-n-TiO2
in the presence of 5, 10, and 20 ppm of naphthalene.
substrate loadings induce the formation of intermediates
that could be adsorbed onto the catalyst surface and de-
activate the active sites [36,37].
3.5. Kinetics of Photodegradation
To study the kinetics of photocatalytic degradation of na-
phthalene in seawater using CM-n-TiO2, Langmuir-Hin-
shelwood (L–H) model was applied. L–H model basical-
ly relates the degradation rate (r) and reactant concentra-
tion in water at time t (C), which is expressed as follows:
rdtK C
 (10)
where kr is the rate constant and Kad is the adsorption
equilibrium constant [38-41]. When the adsorption is
relatively weak and/or the reactant concentration is low,
equation (10) can be simplified to the pseudo-first order
kinetics with an apparent first-order rate constant kapp:
ln or adapp
CkK tkt
 (11)
where Co is the initial concentration. Figure 6 shows the
plot of
ln o
CC versus illumination time for the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. MRC
Figure 6. Plot of ln(Co/C) versus illumination time for the
photocatalytic degradation of naphthalene (5 - 20 ppm) in
seawater under natural sunlight illumination using 1.0 g·L1
photocatalytic degradation of naphthalene (5 - 20 ppm)
in seawater under natural sunlight illumination at the op-
timal conditions of pH 8 and 1.0 g·L1 of CM-n-TiO2.
The linearity of the plot confirmed that the photocatalytic
degradation of naphthalene using CM-n-TiO2 follows the
L–H model, and can be described by pseudo-first order
4. Conclusion
The photocatalytic production of hydrogen accompanied
by the simultaneous degradation of naphthalene in sea-
water was successfully achieved using carbon-modified
(CM)-n-TiO2 nanoparticles under irradiation of natural
sunlight. CM-n-TiO2 nanoparticles exhibited significant-
ly enhanced photocatalytic efficiency compared to unmo-
dified n-TiO2. This observed enhancement in the photo-
activity can be attributed to the carbon modification. The
simultaneous production of hydrogen and degradation of
naphthalene was favorable at pH 8 and optimal catalyst
dose of 1.0 g·L1. The solar photocatalytic degradation of
naphthalene in seawater using CM-n-TiO2 successfully
fitted using Langmuir-Hinshelwood model, and can be
described by pseudo-first order kinetic model.
5. Acknowledgements
The author is thankful to Mr. Mousa Al Zobidi for his
valuable help in the experimental analysis.
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