Role of moisture in adsorption, photocatalytic oxidation, and reemission of elemental mercury on a SiO2-TiO2 nanocomposite.
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A novel silica-titania (SiO2-TiO2) nanocomposite has been developed to effectively capture elemental mercury (Hg0) under UV irradiation. Moisture has been reported to have an important impact on this nanocomposite's performance. In this work, the role of moisture on Hg0 removal and reemission as well as the corresponding mechanisms was investigated. Hg0 removal experiments were carried out in a fixed-bed reactor at 65 degrees C using air as the carrier gas. Without UV irradiation, Hg0 adsorption was found to be insignificant, but it could be enhanced by the photocatalytic oxidation product, mercuric oxide (HgO), possibly due to the high affinity between HgO and Hg0. Under dry conditions 95% of Hg0 can be removed; however, increased humidity levels remarkably suppress both Hg0 adsorption and photocatalytic oxidation. Introducing water vapor can also result in significant reemission of captured Hg0 from the nanocomposite, which may be ascribed to the repellant effect of water vapor adsorbed on the superhydrophilic TiO2 surface. Exposure to UV light was found either to prohibit Hg0 reemission when photocatalytic oxidation of reemitted Hg0 prevailed or to promote Hg0 reemission when photocatalytic reduction of HgO to Hg0 dominated later on. The results indicate that minimization of Hg0 reemission can be achieved by appropriate application of UV irradiation.