Highly recyclable and super-tough hydrogel mediated by dual-functional TiO nanoparticles toward efficient photodegradation of organic water pollutants

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A novel photocatalytic hydrogel was prepared by loading TiO nanoparticles (TiO NPs) onto the surface of 2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidine-1-oxyl (TEMPO)-oxidized chitin nanofibers (TOCNs), which were further incorporated into the polyacrylamide (PAM) matrix. The resultant hydrogel exhibited a macro-porous structure with a low density (~1.45 g/cm) and high water content (~80%). The well-dispersed TiO NPs not only acted as a crosslinking agent for bridging the three-dimensional porous network structure, but also endowed the hydrogel with good catalytic activity. After the introduction of TiO accounting for 10 wt% of the hydrogel mass, the hydrogels showed compressive strength of 1.46 MPa at 70% strain, tensile stress of 316 kPa, tensile strain of 310%, toughness of 47.25 kJ/m and fatigue resistance. Compared with neat TOCN-PAM hydrogel, the uniaxial compressive and tensile strengths of the TiO-TOCN-PAM10 hydrogel increased 6.35-fold and 3.70-fold, respectively. Furthermore, the removal of methyl orange (MO) was attributed to the synergistic effect of the adsorption and photocatalytic degradation of the hydrogels. The hydrogels adsorbed up to 8.5% of MO after 150 min of adsorption and a photocatalytic degradation rate of 97.3% achieved after 90 min of UV irradiation at pH = 2. Especially, the TiO-TOCN-PAM10 hydrogel exhibited excellent recycling performance: its MO removal efficiency was around 96% even after 10 reuse cycles. The as-prepared hydrogels, with characteristics of excellent stretchability, photocatalytic activity and recyclability, are expected to be used in alleviating organic pollutants in practical wastewater treatments.

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Journal of colloid and interface science

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