World Journal of Nano Science and Engineering, 2011, 1, 129-136
doi:10.4236/wjnse.2011.14019 Published Online December 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
A Highly Efficient and Stable Visible-Light Plasmonic
Photocatalyst Ag-AgCl/CeO2
Hongjuan Wang, Lin Yang, Hao Yu, Feng Peng*
The School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, China
E-mail: *
Received September 15, 2011; revised September 27, 2011; accepted October 29, 2011
Noble metal Ag nanoparticles with unique surface plasmon resonance property have attracted much attention
recently in the field of photocatalysis. Based on the advantages of Ag nanoparticles and semiconductor CeO2,
a novel plasmonic photocatalyst Ag-AgCl/CeO2 was prepared with a facile route. The as-prepared samples
were characterized using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy
and UV-vis diffusion reection spectroscopy. This metal-semiconductor nanocomposite plasmonic photo-
catalyst exhibited a high visible-light photocatalytic activity and good stability for photocatalytic degradation
of methyl orange in water. Ag-AgCl/CeO2 will be a potentially promising plasmonic photocatalysts for or-
ganic pollutant degradation and water purification.
Keywords: Plasmonic Photocatalyst, Ag Nanoparticle, AgCl, Visible Light, Photocatalytic Degradation
1. Introduction
Due to its high efficiency, low cost and availability, TiO2
has appeared as a leading photocatalyst candidate since
1970s [1]. However, TiO2 can only absorb UV light due
to its high band gap energy and then cause its low effi-
cient utilization of solar energy [2-7]. During the last
decade, a considerable number of new photocatalytic
materials have been proposed as potential substitutes of
TiO2 [8]. CeO2, as an n-type semiconductor, is one of
them. With a band-gap of 2.9 - 3.2 eV, it has some prop-
erties like titania, such as nontoxicity and high stability
[9,10]. So far, CeO2 are mainly applied in solid oxide
fuel cells, oxygen gas sensors, fluorescent materials,
metal oxide semiconductor devices, and three way cata-
lysts in vehicle emission control systems and ultraviolet
blocking materials, etc. [11-13]. As a potential photoca-
talyst for the oxidation of pollutants, CeO2 is less active
than TiO2 under UV irradiation [14-16]. But it can be ac-
tivated by visible light [8].
Noble-metal nanoparticles (NPs) can give strong visi-
blelight absorption because of their size- and shape-de-
pendent plasmon resonance [17]. In particular, Ag NPs
show efficient surface plasmon resonance (SPR), which
can dramatically enhance the photocatalysts’ absorption
in the visible region [18,19]. This character has been
utilized to develop a plasmonic photocatalyst, which has
become a hotspot in the field of photocatalyst in recent
years. In some researchers’ work, noble metal nanoparti=
cles were doped in semi-conductors or combined with
other non-photoelectric response materials to increase
their photocatalytic performance under visible light. In
Awazu’s report [18], Ag/SiO2/TiO2 plasmonic photoca-
talyst was constructed with Ag NPs as core and the silica
as shell to prevent oxidation of Ag by direct contact with
TiO2. The results showed that the degradation rate of
methylene blue (MB) was greatly boosted by the assis-
tance of the SPR effect of the contacted silver nanoparticles
under near-UV irradiation. Sun et al. [20] demonstrated
that Ag@C core/shell nanocomposite synthesized by a
hydrothermal process was photoactive in destroying aqu-
eous tetraethylated rhodamine (RhB) and gaseous acet-
aldehyde (CH3CHO) under visible-light irradiation. Be-
sides using Ag NPs, silver halides were also used in the
plasmonic photocatalyst [21]. Wang et al. [22-25] utili-
zed the silver halides to develop Ag@AgX plasmonic
photocatalysts with high activity and stability under visi-
ble light. The improved photocatalytic activity of the sil-
ver halides was attributed to the plasmon resonance of
Ag NPs from Ag halides reduced on the surface under ir-
radiation [26]. Hu et al. [27-29] prepared Ag-AgBr/TiO2,
Ag/AgBr/Al2O3 and Ag/AgI/Al2O3 plasmonic photocata-
lyst by deposition-precipitation and photor-eduction method
to destruct azodyes and bacteria under visible light. On
the basis of electron spin resonance and cyclic voltam-
metry analysis, plasmon-induced photocatalytic mecha-
nism was proposed, in which there were two electron
transfer processes.2and excited h+ on Ag NPs, as the
main active species, were involved in the photoreaction
system of Ag/AgI/Al2O3 and Ag/AgBr/Al2O3.
In this work, based on the advantages of Ag, silver
halides and semiconductor CeO2, a novel plasmonic pho-
tocatalyst Ag-AgCl/CeO2 was designed and prepared. The
results showed that the synthesized catalysts had higher
photoactivity and stability, showing the potential of Ag-
AgCl/CeO2 as a promising photocatalytic material for
organic pollutant degradation under visible light.
2. Experimental Section
2.1. Preparation of the Catalysts
All the chemicals used were analytical grade and used
without further purification. CeO2 was purchased from
Rare Chemical Corporation of China. To prepare the
AgCl/CeO2, the deposition-precipitation method was
adopted. In a typical experiment, 1 g CeO2 was added
into 100 mL deionized water and sonicated for 30 min to
form a suspension, followed by the addition of 0.1 g
AgNO3 and kept stirring for 30 min. Then 1 M HCl solu-
tion was added, and kept stirring for another 60 min.
After that, the resulting suspension was centrifuged and
washed with deionized water until pH = 7. The obtained
solid paste was dried at around 90˚C overnight to obtain
Ag-AgCl/CeO2 was prepared via a photo-reduction
method. A suspension of AgCl/CeO2 in deionized water
was formed by sonication for 15 min, and then irradiated
with a 300 W Hg lamp for 20 min to reduce some Ag+ to
Ag. The resulting product with some silver NPs depos-
ited on AgCl/CeO2 was washed and dried in the air to
obtain Ag-AgCl/CeO2.
For comparison, Ag/CeO2 with the same Ag content as
that of Ag-AgCl/CeO2 was also prepared with incipient
wetness impregnation method at room temperature. The
samples were dried at 120˚C for 2 h, calcined in air at
600˚C for 6 h and then reduced in a flow of H2/N2 (20
vol% H2, 50 mL·min–1) at 400˚C for 2 h. As reference,
Ag-AgCl sample was prepared via photo-reduction method
according to the same method as Ag-AgCl/CeO2.
2.2. Characterization of the Catalysts
The morphology characterization of the samples was
performed on a scanning electron microscope (SEM,
LEO1530VP), transmission electron microscopy (TEM,
JEOL JEM 2010) using a 200 kV accelerating voltage.
The crystal structures of the samples were examined by
XRD (D/max-IIIA, Japan) using Cu Kα as the radiation
source. UV-Vis diffuse reflection absorption spectra
(UV-Vis/DRS) of the samples were recorded by an UV-
Vis spectrometer (U3010, Hitachi) equipped with an inte-
grating sphere accessory in the diffuse reflectance mode
(R) and BaSO4 as a reference material. The chemical va-
lences of Ag in the samples were analyzed by X-ray pho-
toelectron spectroscopy (XPS, VG Scientific, ESCALAB
MKII) using Al Kα radiation (1486.71 eV). Spectra cor-
rection was conducted by using a C 1s binding energy of
284.6 eV. The BET surface areas of the samples were
measured by N2 adsorption at 77 K using a TriStar 3000
(Micromeritics, USA) after the samples were degassed in
vacuum at 120˚C overnight. The zeta potential of cata-
lysts in KNO3 (10–3 M) solution were measured with a
Malvern Zata-sizer (Model ZEN 2010, Malvern Instru-
ment Co., UK) with ten consistent readings.
2.3. Evaluation of the Adsorption Capability
For the adsorption capability measurements, fresh dye
solutions of methyl orange (MO), acid orange II (AOII)
and methyl blue (MB) with concentration of 200 mg·L–1
were prepared, respectively. 100 mg photocatalyst sam-
ple was put into 50 mL the above dye solutions. The sus-
pensions were sonicated (40 KHz, 150 W) for 15 min and
stirred for 1 h at room temperature in dark to achieve
absorption equilibrium. After separation through centri-
fugation at 12000 rpm, the remaining dye in solution was
measured by UV-Vis spectrometer after 10 times dilution.
Adsorption kinetics of the samples was carried out for 2
h and the process was similar to the below photocatalytic
reaction process without light irradiation.
2.4. Photocatalytic Reaction
In the experiment of photocatalytic degradation, methyl
orange (MO) was adopted as a typical organic pollutant.
The light source was a 500 W Xe-arc lamp (Nanjing Xu-
jiang Machine-electronic Plant) equipped with wave-
length cutoff filters (1 M sodium nitrite solution, λ 400
nm) used as visible light source [30]. At each time, 100
mg of the powdered photocatalyst was added into a 200
mL solution of MO dye (20 mg·L–1) in a Pyrex-glass cell
at room temperature and sonicated for 15 min to make
the powders disperse well in the solution. Then the sus-
pension system was magnetically stirred in the dark for
60 min to achieve adsorption/desorption equilibrium.
After that, the concentration of the MO was adjusted to
the same (15 mg·L–1), and then the solution was bubbled
with air and irradiated with the visible-light. At regular
intervals, an 8 mL of suspension was sampled and sepa-
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
rated by centrifugation at 12,000 rpm for 10 min. The
concentration of the remaining MO was measured by its
absorbance (A) at 465 nm with a Hitachi UV-3010 spec-
trophotometer. The degradation ratio of MO was calcu-
lated by X = (A0 – A)/A0 × 100%.
Figure 2 shows the SEM, TEM and EDS results of the
prepared Ag-AgCl/CeO2. According to Figure 2 (a) and
(b), CeO2 presents a porous structure and Ag/AgCl NPs
disperse well on the surface of CeO2 with diameter in the
range of 10 - 30 nm. To demonstrate the formation of
silver nanoparticles on silver chloride nanoparticles,
3. Results and Discussion
3.1. Morphology and Structures of the Samples
20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Intensity (a.u.)
2 Theta
Figure 1 displays the XRD patterns of the prepared
AgCl, CeO2, AgCl/CeO2 and Ag-AgCl/CeO2 samples.
Figures 1(a) and (b) exhibit the characteristic diffract-
tion peaks of AgCl (JCPDS file No. 31-1238) and CeO2
(JCPDS file No. 43-1002), respectively. Compared with
Figure 1(b), additional peaks appear in Figure 1(c),
which can be attributed to the cubic phase of AgCl, indi-
cating that a crystalline cubic phase AgCl was formed on
CeO2. After irradiation with mercury lamp, the diffract-
tion peak of metallic Ag (JCPDS file No. 65-2871) ap-
pears in Figure 1d due to the photo-reduction of some
Ag+ in AgCl to Ag0. The reduced Ag atoms aggregate to
form small silver nanocrystals with the cubic phase of
Ag (111) located at 38.1˚, corresponding to 2.36 Å of
lattice space, and then deposit on the surface of AgCl
Figure 1. XRD patterns of AgCl (a); CeO2 (b); AgCl/CeO2
(c); and Ag-AgCl/CeO2 (d).
Figure 2. SEM (a) and TEM; (b ) and HRTEM; (c) Images and EDS; (d) Pattern of Ag-AgCl/CeO2.
high resolution-TEM analysis was shown in Figure 2(c).
Some lattice stripes with different orienttations could be
observed clearly in Figure 2(c). The characteristic values
of lattice constant are 2.36, 2.78 and 3.12 Å correspond-
ing to Ag (111), AgCl (200) and CeO2 (111), respect-
tively, which are coincident with the strong diffraction
peaks of Ag, AgCl and CeO2 from XRD results. The
energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), as shown
in Figure 2(d), also confirmed the existence of Ce, O,
Ag and Cl in Ag-AgCl/CeO2, and the atomic percentages
(%) of Ag and Cl in Ag/AgCl/CeO2 sample is about 0.68
and 0.41. The atomic radio of Ag: Cl > 1, which further
confirmed that the process of Ag+ reducetion to Ag0
happened and some Ag0 existed in the form of metallic
The chemical status of Ag from AgCl/CeO2 and
Ag-AgCl/CeO2 were further analyzed by XPS, as shown
in Figure 3. Before irradiation, the Ag 3d5/2 and Ag 3d3/2
appear at the binding energies of 373.6 eV and 367.6 eV,
respectively. After irradiation, the corresponding peaks
shift to the binding energies of 373.3 eV and 367.3 eV,
respectively. The difference of Ag 3d binding energy
between AgCl/CeO2 and Ag-AgCl/CeO2 is attributed to
the metallic Ag in the Ag-AgCl/CeO2 [31].
The UV-Vis diffuse-reflectance spectra of CeO2, AgCl/
CeO2 and Ag-AgCl/CeO2 were compared in Figure 4.
The CeO2 (Figure 4 (a)) only exhibits a weak absorption
in the visible light region around 400 nm - 450 nm.
The addition of AgCl doesn’t enhance the absorption
of CeO2 due to the large band gaps of AgCl with a direct
band gap of 5.15 eV (241 nm) and an indirect band gap
of 3.25 eV (382 nm) [32] (Figure 4(b)). In contrast to
AgCl/CeO2 and CeO2, Ag-AgCl/CeO2 has a strong ad-
sorption in the visible region of 400 - 700 nm (Figure
4(c)), which is attributed to the plasmonic resonance of
Ag NPs deposited on AgCl/CeO2 particles. It also further
confirmed the formation of Ag NPs in the as-synthesized
Ag-AgCl/CeO2 catalyst.
On the basis of the above XRD, EDS, XPS, UV-Vis,
SEM and TEM analysis, it can be confirmed that Ag-
AgCl NPs deposited uniformly on the surface of CeO2
and that some Ag+ in AgCl was reduced to Ag0 and thus
Ag0 and AgCl coexist in the Ag-AgCl/CeO2 catalyst.
3.2. The Adsorption Behaviors of Samples
Figure 5 shows the adsorption kinetics of the catalysts to
MO. After 30 min, all of the catalysts almost reach ad-
sorption equilibrium. After 2 hours, about 29% of MO was
adsorbed onto Ag-AgCl/CeO2. Under the same condition,
about 83%, 63% and 33% of MO were adsorbed onto
AgCl/CeO2, Ag/CeO2 and CeO2, respectively. AgCl/CeO2
shows the strongest adsorption capability to MO.
366 368 370 372 374 376 378
373.3 eV
367.3 eV373.6 eV
Relative intensity (a.u.)
Binding Energy (eV)
367.6 eV
Figure 3. XPS spectra of Ag 3d of Ag-AgCl/CeO2 (a) and
AgCl/CeO2 (b).
200 300 400 500 600 700
Absorbance (a.u.)
Wavelength (nm)
Figure 4. UV-Vis diffuse-reflectance spectra of CeO2 (a);
AgCl/CeO2 (b) and Ag-AgCl/CeO2 (c).
0 20406080100120
AgCl/ CeO2
Time (min)
Figure 5. Adsorption kinetics of MO on the catalysts in
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
The adsorption of these catalysts to MO and other or-
ganic dyes, such as MB and AOII were listed in Table 1.
From Table 1, it can be concluded that all of the cata-
lysts show higher absorption capability to anionic dyes,
i.e., MO and AOII. But they are inactive to cationic dye
MB. It is interesting that AgCl/CeO2 has the strongest
adsorption ability to both MO and AOII among the three
catalysts, although they have almost the same BET sur-
face areas (Table 1). From the Zeta potential listed in
Table 1, it can be seen that AgCl/CeO2 has the highest
zeta potential among the three catalysts, which means
that the catalyst with more positive zeta potential owns
the stronger adsorption capability to the anionic charged
dyes. From these results, it is reasonable to conclude that
the adsorption of the catalysts to dyes is due to the strong
electrostatic interaction between anionic dyes and posi-
tively charged surfaces of the catalysts.
3.3. Photocatalytic Performances of Samples
The photocatalytic activity of the catalysts was evaluated
by photocatalytic degradation of MO aqueous solution
under visible light irradiation. In order to avoid the ef-
fects of the adsorption on the photodegradation efficiency,
the initial concentration of the MO was adjust to the
same level (15 mg·L–1) after the adsorption equilibrium.
Figure 6 shows the degradation ratios of MO dye over
different catalysts under visible light irradiation. It can be
seen that the CeO2 shows rather poor photocatalytic ac-
tivity (Figure 6 (a)) with less than 5% of MO degrada-
tion ratio under visible light irradiation in 120 min. For
Ag/CeO2 sample with only Ag immobilized on CeO2, it
shows almost the same poor activity as that of CeO2
(Figure 6(b)). For AgCl/CeO2, almost 16% of MO could
be degraded under the same condition (Figure 6(d)). The
enhanced photocatalytic activity of AgCl/CeO2 could be
attributed to the synergy between the photosensitive
AgCl and CeO2. Under visible-light irradiation, the pho-
togenerated electron-hole pairs were formed on the sur-
face of CeO2. The photoexcited electrons were separated
into two parts: One part of them were scavenged by oxy-
gen on the catalyst surface to produce2active species,
the other part transferred to AgCl to reduce a small
amount of Ag+ to Ag0 depositing on the surface of AgCl
NPs. From Figure 6d, it can also be seen that the degra-
dation ratio of MO on AgCl/CeO2 becomes distinct after
40 min because of the formation of Ag NPs on the sur-
face of AgCl/CeO2 surface. For Ag-AgCl/CeO2, the de-
gradation ratio of MO reaches 90% in 120 min (Figure
6(e)), which is more than 5 and 16 times those of AgCl/
CeO2 and Ag/CeO2, respectively. It is proven that Ag
NPs with surface plasmon resonance dramatically enhan-
ced the photocatalytic activity under the visible-light ir-
radiation. In order to estimate the role of CeO2, the pho-
tocatalytic degradation of MO with Ag-AgCl sample
with same Ag/AgCl content as Ag-AgCl/CeO2 were
shown in Figure 6(c). It can be seen that Ag-AgCl cata-
lyst shows lower activity with less than 10% MO being
degraded. All the results above suggest that Ag, AgCl
and CeO2 in the Ag-AgCl/CeO2 catalyst exhibited syner-
gistic effects.
In order to investigate the role of Ag in the Ag-AgCl/
CeO2 further, the photodegradation of MO with Ag-AgCl/
CeO2 and AgCl/CeO2 were studied under different visible-
light, respectively, as shown in Figure 7. The visible-light
with different wavelength was obtained with different
filter. From Figure 7(d), at the wavelength λ > 420 nm,
no significant degradation was observed on AgCl/CeO2,
which is due to the weak visible-light absorption of
AgCl/CeO2 in this wavelength range. While Ag-AgCl/
CeO2 exhibited very high photocatalytic activity at the
same condition, which means that Ag plays very important
role in the photocatalytic degradation of MO. One is the
plasmon resonance of Ag NPs and the other is the en-
hancing separation of photo-excited electrons and holes.
With wavelength changing from λ > 400 nm to λ > 420
Table 1. Adsorption capacity and zeta potential of different
Adsorption Capacity
(μmol ·g –1)
Zeta potential
BET surface
area (m2·g–1)
AgCl/CeO2209.80 185.9 26.4 51.2
Ag/CeO2 125.30 164.5 21.8 53.3
Ag-AgCl/CeO277.30 73.71 20.5 56.4
020 40 60 80100120
100 CeO2e
X (%)
Irradiation time (min)
Figure 6. The degradation ratios of MO under visible light
irradiation on the catalysts: CeO2 (a); Ag/CeO2 (b); Ag-AgCl
(c); AgCl/CeO2 (d); and Ag-AgCl/CeO2 (e).
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
nm, the photocatalytic activity of Ag-AgCl/CeO2 changes
little and the change is even smaller than that for AgCl/
CeO2, which indicates that the plasmon resonance of Ag
NPs is the main role in the photocatalytic degradation of
MO under visible-light [28].
The effect of photo-reduction time of AgCl/CeO2 on
the photocatalytic degradation of MO was also examined.
The result showed that Ag-AgCl/CeO2 with photo-re-
duction time of 20 min exhibits the highest photocatalytic
activity than those with reduction time of 10 min and 30
min, indicating that the photocatalytic activity greatly
depends on the Ag NPs content on AgCl/CeO2.
As a useful photocatalyst, the stability is rather impor-
tant for its practical application. Figure 8 shows the re-
usability of Ag-AgCl/CeO2 catalyst for MO photocata-
lytic degradation. Although the degradation ratio of MO
decreased slightly after each run, the catalyst still exhib-
ited efficient activity with about 82% of the degradation
ratio at the fifth run. So, the as-prepared catalyst could
remain 90% of the initial activity after five recycling run,
suggesting the Ag-AgCl/CeO2 has good stability and can
be used repeatedly.
3.4. Discussion on the Reaction Mechanism
Several studies have confirmed that Ce 4f plays vital role
for CeO2 in photocatalytic process [33] and they demon-
strated that electrons can be more easily injected into 4f
band of CeO2 because the potential of 4f band of CeO2 is
a little more positive than that of the conduction band of
TiO2. CeO2 was chosen as the semiconductor in this work
has other reason, that is, CeO2 has excellent electron-
transfer mediator ability under visible light [9], which is
helpful to further enhance its charge separation ability.
For a plasmonic photocatalyst, the major photocata-
lytic reaction procedure under visible light irradiation
can be summarized by the following steps, schematically
shown in Figure 9, which is similar with Huang’s me-
chanism of Ag@AgCl plasmonic photocatalysis and Hu’s
plasmon-induced charge separation mechanism [22,27].
First, due to the SPR ability of noble metal NPs, Ag NPs
absorb visible light and generate electron-hole pairs
when the visible light is illuminated. Then the photogen-
erated electrons are injected to the 4f band of CeO2 and
captured by the oxygen on the surface of CeO2 to gener-
ate superoxide radical that can then form hydrogen peroxide
(H2O2), hydroperoxy (HO2·) and hydroxyl (OH·). Except
for the generation of these common photocatalytic active
species, another reactive radical species Cl0 is formed
when the holes transfer to AgCl with its surface negatively
charged by Cl after Ag+ reduction. Cl0 can oxidize MO
and be reduced to Cl again. So, the system is cyclic and
020 40 60 80100120
X (%)
Irradiation time (min)
Figure 7. The degradation ratios of MO dye in solution (20
mg·L–1) under visible light with λ 400 nm (a, c) and λ
420 nm (b, d) on the catalysts: Ag-AgCl/CeO2 (a, b) and
AgCl/CeO2 (c, d).
1st2nd 3rd4th5th
X (%)
Figure 8. Reusability of Ag-AgCl/CeO2 catalyst for MO
photocatalytic degradation under visible light irradiation.
MO initial concentration of 15 mg·L–1; catalyst concentra-
tion of 0.5 g·L–1 and reaction time of 2 h.
Figure 9. Schematic diagram for the charge separation on
Ag-AgCl/CeO2 catalyst under visible light irradiation.
4. Conclusions
The plasmonic photocatalyst Ag-AgCl/CeO2 was pre-
pared with an easy achieving and controlling method.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. WJNSE
The results show that Ag-AgCl/CeO2 has high photo-
catalytic activity and good stability for MO photocata-
lytic degradation under visible light irradiation. With the
synergistic effects of Ag and AgCl, an improved visible-
light photocatalytic activity was achieved. Ag-AgCl/CeO2
will be a potentially promising plasmonic photocatalysts
for organic pollutant degradation and water purifycation.
5. Acknowledgements
The authors thank the National Natural Science Founda-
tion of China (No. 20873044) and the Guangdong Pro-
vincial Science and Technology Project of China (No.
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