Curved TiO2 Nanoparticles in Water: Short (Chemical) and Long (Physical) Range Interfacial Effects

by G. Fazio, D. Selli, L. Ferraro, G. Seifert and C. Di Valentin
Acs. Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2018, 10, pp 22943-22953 View at Publisher
DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b08172

In most technological applications, nanoparticles are immersed in a liquid environment. Understanding nanoparticles/liquid interfacial effects is extremely relevant. This work provides a clear and detailed picture of the type of chemistry and physics taking place at the prototypical TiO2nanoparticles/water interface, which is crucial in photocatalysis and photoelectrochemistry. We present a multistep and multiscale investigation based on hybrid density functional theory (DFT), density functional tight-binding, and quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics calculations. We consider increasing water partial pressure conditions from ultra-high vacuum up to the bulk water environment. We first investigate single water molecule adsorption modes on various types of undercoordinated sites present on a realistic curved nanoparticle (2–3 nm) and then, by decorating all the adsorption sites, we study a full water monolayer to identify the degree of water dissociation, the Brønsted–Lowry basicity/acidity of the nanoparticle in water, the interface effect on crystallinity, surface energy, and electronic properties, such as the band gap and work function. Furthermore, we increase the water coverage by adding water multilayers up to a thickness of 1 nm and perform molecular dynamics simulations, which evidence layer structuring and molecular orientation around the curved nanoparticle. Finally, we clarify whether these effects arise as a consequence of the tension at the water drop surface around the nanosphere by simulating a bulk water up to a distance of 3 nm from the oxide surface. We prove that the nanoparticle/water interfacial effects go rather long range since the dipole orientation of water molecules is observed up to a distance of 5 Å, whereas water structuring extends at least up to a distance of 8 Å from the surface.