Proper co-catalysts (usually noble metals), combined with semiconductor materials, are commonly needed to maximize the efficiency of photocatalysis. Search for cost-effective and practical alternatives for noble-metal co-catalysts is under intense investigation. In this work, nanodiamond (ND), which is a carbon nanomaterial with a unique sp3(core)/sp2(shell) structure, was combined with WO3 (as an alternative co-catalyst for Pt) and applied for the degradation of volatile organic compounds under visible light. NDs-loaded WO3 showed a highly enhanced photocatalytic activity for the degradation of acetaldehyde (∼17 times higher than bare WO) which is more efficient than other well-known co-catalysts (Ag, Pd, Au, and CuO) loaded onto WO3 and comparable to Pt-loaded WO3. Various surface modifications of ND and photoelectochemical measurements revealed that the graphitic carbon shell (sp2) on the diamond core (sp3) plays a crucial role in charge separation and the subsequent interfacial charge transfer. As a result, ND/WO3 showed much higher production of OH radicals than bare WO3 under visible light. Since ND has a highly transparent characteristic, the light shielding that is often problematic with other carbon-based co-catalysts was considerably lower with NDs-loaded WO3. As a result, the photocatalytic activity of NDs/WO3 was higher than that of WO3 loaded with other carbon-based co-catalysts (graphene oxide or reduced graphene oxide). A range of spectroscopic and photo(electro)chemical techniques were systematically employed to investigate the properties of NDs-loaded WO3. ND is proposed as a cost-effective and practical nanomaterial to replace expensive noble-metal co-catalysts.
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