World Journal of Nano Science and Engineering, 2011, 1, 79-83
doi:10.4236/wjnse.2011.13012 Published Online September 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
Biomolecule-Assisted Synthesis of Nanocrystalline
CdS and Bi2S3 for Photocatalytic Hydrogen Evolution
Caolong Li1,2, Wei Chen1, Jian Yuan1, Mingxia Chen1, Wenfeng Shangguan1*
1Research Center for Combustion and Environment Technology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China
2Department of Basic Courses, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing, China
E-mail: *
Received April 19, 2011; revised May 3, 2011; accepted May 13, 2011
Novel CdS and Bi2S3 hollow nanospheres were prepared by simple “one-pot” biomolecule-assisted hydroth-
ermal method using glutathione (GSH) as sulfur source and structure-directing reagents. The single-phase
CdS and Bi2S3 photocatalysts were capable of evolving H2 from aqueous solutions containing a sacrificial
electron donor, under visible light irradiation (λ 420 nm) with Pt co-catalyst. A possible formation mecha-
nism of complexation, S-C bond rupture, and spherical aggregate followed isotropic Ostwal ripening or ani-
sotropic Ostwal ripening was proposed in this study.
Keywords: CdS, Bi2S3, Photocatalyst, Hydrogen Evolution, Ostwal Ripening
1. Introduction
Since the evolution of hydrogen and oxygen over TiO2
and Pt counterelectrodes under the irradiation of ultra-
violet (UV) light was first reported by Fujishima and
Honda [1], photocatalytic water splitting has been re-
ceived much attention and widely studied for converting
solar energy into clean and renewable hydrogen energy.
Most of already developed photocatalysts can only take
advantage of ultraviolet irradiation accounting for a
small fraction 4% of the overall solar energy. Generally,
sulfides exhibited good photocatalytic activities under
visible light [2]. Among all sulfides, nanocrystalline CdS
with unique nanostructure, has been provided with good
photocatalytic activity for hydrogen production [3]. There-
fore, many investigations have been made in the devel-
opment of various methods for the design and fabri-
cation of hollow nano- or microspheres [4], nanorods [5],
microcages [6], and nanoporous sheetlike/hollow CdS [7]
using a template and/or surfactant.
Pt-loaded CdS nanowire arrays with highly ordered
crystalline prepared by a hard template of mesoporous
silica showed good photocatalytic activity for hydrogen
production under visible light irradiation [8,9]. Nanos-
tructured CdS, including nanosheets and hollow nano-
rods, with diameters of 3 nm exhibited large BET surface
area and high hydrogen yield under visible light irradia-
tion (λ 420 nm) [7]. Some nanostructured CdS with
various morphologies, such as hollow sphere-like [4],
rod-like [10], snake-like alignment of nonspherical [11]
and microcage-like [6], have been also prepared for ph-
In present study, CdS and Bi2S3 hollow nanospheres
were prepared by simple “one-pot” hydrothermal method
using glutathione (GSH) as the sulfur source and struc-
ture-directing reagents. This paper concerns the synthesis,
characterization, photocatalytic activity and the forma-
tion mechanism of the novel structural CdS and Bi2S3.
2. Experimental Procedures
2.1. Materials and Instruments
All chemicals adopted were of analytical grade. The
UV-visible absorption was checked by using a UV-vis
spectrophotometer (TU1901, China). The XRD patterns
were obtained with a Bruker D8 advance diffractometer
using Cu-K radiation. TEM measurements were con-
ducted using a JEM-2010. FESEM images were obtained
on a JEOL JSM-6700 field-emission scanning electron
2.2. Method of Synthesis
0.99 mmol Cd(NO3)2·4H2O, 0.99 mmol GSH and 45 mL
deionized water was added into 80 mL capacity stainless
Teflon autoclave, which gave a GSH/Cd2+ molar ratio of
1:1. After stirred for 30 min, the autoclave was heated at
160˚C for 24 h. The precipitates were centrifuged and
washed using ethanol and deionized, and finally dried at
80˚C. With the same method, Bi2S3 nanomaterials were
prepared at a GSH/Bi3+ molar ratio of 3:2.
2.3. Photocatalytic Reaction
Photocatalytic hydrogen evolution was performed in a
top-irradiation Pyrex cell. The hydrogen evolved was
analyzed by a thermal conductivity detector (TCD) gas
chromatograph (MS-5A zeolite column). The detailed
experiment was listed in Figure 4.
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Characterization of Materials
The XRD pattern of the prepared CdS microsphere was
shown in Figure 1. According to its main diffraction
peaks at 24.9˚, 26.6˚, 28.4˚, 43.7˚, 52.0˚, it can be well
matched with the standard values (JCPDS Card no
02-0549). The broadness of the diffraction peaks indi-
cates that the dimensions of the CdS nanoparticles are
very small. Figure 1 also shows that all the diffraction
peaks of Bi2S3 can be indexed to be a pure orthorhombic
phase for Bi2S3 (JCPDS Card no. 06-0333) with lattice
parameters a = 1.1150 nm, b = 1.1300 nm, and c =
0.3981 nm. The intensities and positions of the peaks are
in good agreement with literature values [12].
3.2. SEM and TEM Observations of CdS and
The TEM image of CdS shown in Figure 2(a) demons-
trated that the satisfactorily hollow nanospheres with the
size of 100 - 200 nm in diameter were formed. It can be
seen that the relative whiter areas in the central area of
image and the dark walls of the hollow nanospheres con-
sist of sub-nanocrystallites with the size of about 5 nm in
diameter (The inserted TEM amplificatory image). The
thickness of their walls is ca. 60 nm. The SEM overview
images shown in Figure 2(b) indicated that the nanosph-
eres were inhomogenously dispersed. An open void that
evolved from the hollow interior space was present in the
Figure 1. XRD patterns of CdS and Bi2S3.
(a) (b)
(c) (d)
Figure 2. TEM (a) and SEM (b) images of the CdS hollow microspheres. The inset Figure 2(a) is the TEM amplificatory im-
age of the corresponding sample. SEM (c, d) images of the Bi2S3.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
center of the nanospheres, and some of the spheres were
broken, confirming their hollow nature as pointed out by
the arrow shown in Figure 2(b). The FESEM photo-
graphs of Bi2S3 shown in Figures 2(c) and (d) were ob-
viously observed that some of Bi2S3 showed coarse
spheres and rod-particles, and camellia flower-like ag-
glomerated structure, instead of a uniform hollow sphere
3.3. Photocatalytic Perfermance
Figure 3(a) shows that the CdS hollow microspheres
exhibit an absorption edge of 510 nm. The Tauc plot
derived from UV–vis reflectance measurement of CdS
holl- ow spheres indicated a direct band gap of 2.43 eV.
It has been reported that the band gap of Bi2S3 varies
from 1.2 to 1.84 eV depending on the synthesis method
[13]. The band gap of Bi2S3 prepared in the study is
about 1.73 eV according to the result shown in Figure
Figure 4(a) shows the time courses of hydrogen evo-
lution over CdS hollow spheres. The initial photocata-
lytic hydrogen yield attained 67.2 μmol/h. Figure 4(b)
shows the photocatalytic activity of Bi2S3 for the hydro-
gen evolution. The hydrogen yield is ca. 0.75 μmol/h,
being quite low compared to that of CdS. The activity
difference might result not only from the different ele-
ment component but also from the different apparent
structure and the particle size. Future investigation on
controlling and influence of apparent structure on photo-
catalytic activity is being undertaken.
Figure 3. (a) UV-vis spectrum of CdS nanoparticles. The
inset curve is the Tacu curve; (b) The Tacu curve of Bi2S3.
Figure 4. The rate of H2 evolution on CdS hollow sphere
catalysts with loading of 0.5 wt% Pt (a), and Bi2S3 catalysts
with loading of 0.5 wt% Pt (b) in aqueous solution of 20 ml
of 0.35 M Na2SO3, 20 ml of 0.25 M Na2S and 40 ml deion-
ized water: catalyst, 0.1 g; light source, 300 W Xe lamp with
filter (λ 420 nm).
3.4. Formation Mechanism of Hollow
It is speculated that the synthesis reaction of CdS hollow
microspheres consists of two steps as follows. The first
step is GSH-dominated nucleation process which can be
In this process, glutathione plays the role as sulfur
source and structure-directing reagents. First, it could ch-
elate with Cd2+ to form initial precursor complexes
[Equation (1)], followed by S-C bonds rupturing due to
high temperature [Equation (2)]. Second, the excess GSH
could be adsorbed on the surface of CdS nanoparticles
because S in the glutathione has a strong affinity toward
the Cd in the CdS, and small CdS nanoparticles aggre-
gated due to the interaction of H-bond on the surface of
GSH. Finally, solid spheres were formed through the
progressively developing of its curved faces.
The second step is the Ostwald ripening process. The
nanocrystallites located in the inner cores have higher
solubilities due to the higher surface energies associated
with their larger curvatures, compared with the outer
nanocrystallites. As the reaction proceeded, the CdS in
the outer layers of the nanospheres grew larger at the
expense of the inner ones by the mass transfer between
the solid core and outside chemical solution through in-
tercrystallite interstitials of the nanospheres [14], which
was accompanied with the formation of the interior space,
as shown in Figure 5(1). However, the growth is likely
to proceed in two ways, viz. isotropic growth and ani-
sotropic growth. Generally, a reaction is more likely to
lead to an anisotropic growth with a relatively slow sup-
ply of reaction precursors than that with fast one [15]. As
it has been known, the solubility of CdS in aqueous solu-
tion is much higher than Bi2S3 with their Ksp values at
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
1.4 × 10–29 and 1.82 × 10–99, respectively. Thus, camellia
flower-like or cauliflower-like hierarchical architectures
by anisotropic ripening mechanism were shaped on the
surface of Bi2S3 spheres shown in Figure 5(2). Moreover,
when we substituted Na2S and thiourea for GSH to per-
form the preparation, no CdS and Bi2S3 nanospheres
were found. This result could further indicate that GSH
plays an indispensable role in the fabrication of certain
three–dimensional nano materials with different mor-
phologies and structures.
4. Conclusions
In summary, the fabrication of uniform CdS hollow
nanospheres and Bi2S3 nanospheres-based camellia flo-
wer-like and/or cauliflower-like hierarchical architectu-
res have been achieved by simple “one-pot” method us-
ing a biomolecule-assisted hydrothermal process without
any template. A possible formation mechanism concer-
ned complexation, S-C bond rupture, and spherical ag-
gregate followed isotropic Ostwal ripening or anisotropic
Ostwal ripening. The as-prepared CdS photocatalyst ex-
hibited higher photocatalytic activity under visible light.
The biomolecule-assisted hydrothermal method provides
a simple alternative route for the preparation of unique
morphology inorganic semiconductor sulfide nanocrys-
tals. The structure and property can be expected to be
promoted feasibly by changing preparation conditions
for different compounds.
5. Acknowledgements
This work was financially supported by the National Key
Basic Research and Development Program (Grant No.
2complexation ()
SC bond ruptureSpherical
() ()
n n
  (2)
Isotropic ripening
Anisotropic ripening
Cd2+ or Bi3+ CdS or Bi2S3
Figure 5. The scheme of the formation process of the CdS
hollow microspheres or the Bi2S3 nanospheres-based camel-
lia flower-like or cauliflower-like hierarchical architectures.
2009CB220000), and the National High Technology
Research and Development Program of China (2009AA
6. References
[1] A. Fujishima and K. Honda. “Electrochemical Photolysis
of Water at a Semiconductor Electrode,” Nature, Vol.
238, 1972, pp. 37-38.
[2] F. E. Osterloh, “Inorganic Materials as Catalysts for Pho-
tochemical Splitting of Water,” Journal of Materials
Chemistry, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2008, pp. 35-54.
[3] A. Kudo and Y. Miseki, “Heterogeneous Photocatalyst
Materials for Water Splitting,” Chemical Society Reviews,
Vol. 38, 2009, pp. 253-278. doi:10.1039/b800489g
[4] G. F. Lin, J. W. Zheng and R. Xu, “Template-Free Syn-
thesis of Uniform CdS Hollow Nanospheres and Their
Photocatalytic Activities,” Journal of Physical Chemistry
C, Vol. 112, No. 19, 2008, pp. 7363-7370.
[5] W. Cai, Z. G. Li and J. H. Sui, “A Facile Single-Source
Route to CdS Nanorods,” Nanotechnology, Vol. 19, 2008,
pp. 465606-465612.
[6] Q. Gong, X. F. Qian, P. L. Zhou, X. B. Yu, W. M. Du
and S. H. Xu, “In Situ Sacrificial Approach to the Syn-
thesis of Octahedral CdS Microcages,” Journal of Physi-
cal Chemistry C, Vol. 111, No. 5, 2007, pp. 1935-1940.
[7] N. Z. Bao, L. M. Shen, T. Takata and K. Domen,
“Self-Templated of Nanoporous CdS Nanostructures for
Highly Efficient Photocatalytic Hydrogen Production
under Visible Light,” Journal of Materials Chemistry,
Vol. 20, No. 1, 2008, pp. 110-117.
[8] X. Xu, F. Z. Zhang, S. L. Xu, J. He, L. Y. Wang, D. G.
Evans and X. Duan, “Template Synthesis of Nanoparticle
Arrays of CdS in Transparent Layered Double Hydroxide
Films,” Chemical Communications, 2009, pp. 7533-7535.
[9] D. W. Jing and L. J. Guo, “A Novel Method for the
Preparation of a Highly Stable and Active CdS Photo-
catalyst with a Special Surface Nanostructure,” Journal of
Physical Chemistry B, Vol. 110, No. 23, 2006, pp. 11139-
11145. doi:10.1021/jp060905k
[10] C. M. Janet and R. P. Viswanath, “Large Scale Synthesis
of CdS Nanorods and Its Utilization in Photo-Catalytic H2
Production,” Nanotechnology, Vol. 17, 2006, pp. 5271-
[11] G. Burcu, G. Giancarlo, C. Emo and B. Niyazi, “Prepara-
tion of Stable CdS Nanoparticles in Aqueous Medium
and Their Hydrogen Generation Efficiencies in Photoly-
sis of Water,” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy,
Vol. 34, 2009, pp. 1176-1184.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
[12] Q. Z. Wu, H. Q. Cao, S. C. Zhang, X. R. Zhang and D.
Rabinovich, “Generation and Optical Properties of Mono-
disperse Wurtzite-Type ZnS Microspheres,” Inorganic
Chemistry, Vol. 45, No. 18, 2006, pp. 7316-7323.
[13] Q. Y. Lu, F. Gao and S. Komarneni, “Biomole-Cule-As-
sisted Synthesis of Highly Ordered Snowflakelike Struc-
tures of Bismuth Sulfide Nanorods,” Journal of the
American Chemical Society, Vol. 126, No. 1, 2004, pp.
54-61. doi:10.1021/ja0386389
[14] Y. H. Zheng, Y. Cheng, Y. Y. Wang, L. H. Zhou and C.
Jia, “Metastable γ-MnS Hierarchical Architectures: Syn-
thesis, Characterization, and Growth Mechanism,” Jour-
nal of Physical Chemistry B, Vol. 110, No. 16, 2006, pp.
8284-8289. doi:10.1021/jp060351l
[15] S. J. Kwon, “Theoretical Analysis of Non-Catalytic
Growth of Nanorods on a Substrate,” Journal of Physical
Chemistry B, Vol. 110, No. 9, 2006, pp. 3876-3882.