Sci Rep. 2023 Aug 29;13(1):14105. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-39523-6.
The band gap of rutile TiO2 has been narrowed, via the formation of oxygen vacancies (OVs) during heat treatment in carbon powder (cHT) with embedding TiO2 coatings. The narrowed band gap efficiently improves the visible light response of TiO2 coatings, to further enhance the visible-light-driven photocatalytic activity. The change in OVs during cHT has been studied by manipulation of cHT temperature and time. The effect of OVs on the band structure of nonstoichiometric TiO2-x has been further calculated by first-principles calculations. With raising the temperature, SEM images show that the nano-size fiber-like structure forms on the surface of TiO2 coatings, and the amount of the fiber-like structure significantly increases and their size changes from nano to micro under 800 °C, contributing to cause an increase in accessible surface area. The UV-Vis results reveal that the band gap of TiO2 has been narrowed during cHT, due to the formed oxygen vacancies. The XPS results further confirm that the formation of surface defects including OVs, and the XPS depth profile further shows the decreased relative amount of O whereas increased relative amount of carbon. Notably, after cHT for TiO2 coatings, the photocatalytic activity first increases then decreases with raising the temperature, achieving approximately 3 times at 850 °C. The first-principles calculation suggest that the OVs in TiO2 coatings with localized electrons could facilitate the band gap narrowing, further favoring to enhance the photocatalytic activity under visible light.