Understanding How the Structure of Boron Oxynitride Affects its Photocatalytic Properties

Synchrotron studies show that tuning the synthesis of boron oxynitride can improve its performance as a photocatalyst and semiconductor

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is often in the news these days. As a greenhouse gas, released during the combustion of fossil fuels, it is fuelling climate change, and reducing our CO2 emissions is critical to a sustainable future. CO2 is also a by-product of many industrial processes, including the production of ammonia used for fertilisers. On the other hand, many industries need a regular supply of CO2, and shortages have caused problems in recent years. It makes sense, therefore, to find ways to recycle some of the waste CO2 we produce into useful products. However, CO2 conversion reactions are energy-intensive, and new catalysts are needed to make the reactions more efficient. Photocatalysts absorb light energy, creating a charge separation that can then drive a chemical reaction. A team of researchers from Imperial College London are researching CO2 conversion using photocatalysis. In work recently published in Chemistry of Materials, they investigated how oxygen doping affects the photocatalytic and optoelectronic properties of boron nitride. Their results provide valuable insights into the photochemistry of boron oxynitride (BNO) at the fundamental level.

By clarifying the importance of paramagnetism in BNO semiconductors and providing fundamental insight into their photophysics, this study paves the way to tailoring its properties for CO2 conversion photocatalysis. The group has also recently used a similar methodology to investigate phosphorus doping of boron nitride, which they will explore in a future publication. 

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Image: Combined experimental (EPR, NEXAFS) + computational study (DFT)

Credit: Image via Chem. Mater. 2023, 35, 5, 1858-1867