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ISSN : 1225-0562(Print)
ISSN : 2287-7258(Online)
Korean Journal of Materials Research Vol.28 No.11 pp.620-626

Enhanced Self-Cleaning Performance of Ag-F-Codoped TiO2/SiO2 Thin Films

Byeong-Min Kim, Jung-Sik Kim
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Seoul, Seoul 02504, Republic of Korea
Corresponding author
E-Mail : (J.-S. Kim, Univ. of Seoul)
October 2, 2018 October 2, 2018 October 23, 2018


Highly self-cleaning thin films of TiO2-SiO2 co-doped with Ag and F are prepared by the sol-gel method. The asprepared thin films consist of bottom SiO2 and top TiO2 layers which are modified by doping with F, Ag and F-Ag elements. XRD analysis confirms that the prepared thin film is a crystalline anatase phase. UV-vis spectra show that the light absorption of Ag-F-TiO2/SiO2 thin films is tuned in the visible region. The self-cleaning properties of the prepared films are evaluated by a water contact angle measurement under UV light irradiation. The photocatalytic performances of the thin films are studied using methylene blue dye under both UV and visible light irradiation. The Ag-F-TiO2/SiO2 thin films exhibit higher photocatalytic activity under both UV and visible light compared with other samples of pure TiO2, Ag-doped TiO2, and F-doped TiO2 films.


    Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport

    © Materials Research Society of Korea. All rights reserved.

    This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

    1. Introduction

    Titanium dioxide(TiO2) has become the most promising candidate for extensive application in the field of selfcleaning, photocatalysis, phototovoltaic, pigment, antibacterial and hydrogen production due to its extra ordinary properties like chemical-physical stability, thermal and electrical properties, low cost and nontoxicity.1,2) To extend its applicability in self-cleaning surfaces, many researchers have been developing various ways to apply TiO2 coating on different substrates.3,4) Generally, TiO2 and SiO2 are used as high and low refractive index materials, respectively. TiO2-SiO2 based coatings are found to be applicable for coating various substrates due to their high, photoactivity, strong redox property, high thermal stability, high chemical durability, low thermal expansion coefficient, versatile refractive index and hydrophilicity.5,6)

    Recently, modified TiO2 has attracted a great attention, because it could result in a higher photocatalytic activity compared with undoped TiO2. Among various dopant species, Ag and F elements doped in TiO2 showed enhancing the photocatalytic activity towards degradation of organic compounds. Ag is an extremely attractive noble metal due to its low cost, high efficiency, antimicrobial property, high oxygen adsorption reactivity and ease of preparation and its remarkable catalytic activity.7) The deposition of Ag into TiO2 has been of considerable interest for both mechanistic and applicability reasons because Ag nanoparticles can act as electron traps supporting electron-hole separation.8,9) Visible light absorption by silver surface plasmons is considered for electron transfer to TiO2 surface and thus it can be activated by visible light.

    Similarly, researchers have found that the doping of nitrogen or fluorine is an effective way to enhance the photocatalytic activity of TiO2.10) Compared with N doping, F-doping can improve photocatalytic activity under both UV and visible light irradiations. F-doping converted Ti4+ to Ti3+ by charge compensation, and the existence of Ti3+ could increase the photogenerated charge carrier separation rate, and enhance the photocatalytic activity.11) The previous investigation have also indicated that surface fluorination can generate more free OH radicals and creates oxygen vacancies.12) Also, upon Fdoping in TiO2, F centers are formed which helps to narrowing the band gap of TiO2.13)

    Several work has been reported on Ag or F doped TiO2 thin film photocatalysts14,15) while very few studies addressed self-cleaning and photocatalytic effect of Ag and F codoped TiO2 thin films. Lin et al prepared F-doped TiO2 loaded with Ag(Ag-F-TiO2) powder by sol-gel process combined with photoreduction method and investigated the effects of Ag loading on the photocatalytic activities of F-TiO2.7) Therefore, it is necessary to understand photocatalytic performance of Ag and F co-doped TiO2 thin films.

    In the present work, we have synthesized Ag-F codoped TiO2/SiO2 thin film photocatalyst by a sol-gel process. The effect of Ag and F doping on the selfcleaning and photocatalytic performance of prepared thin films were evaluated by measuring the water contact angle and photocatalytic degradation of methylene blue, respectively.

    2. Experimental

    2.1 Raw materials

    Tetraethyl orthosilicate(TEOS, Si[OC2H5]4) and titanium tetraisopropoxide(Ans.) (TTIP, Ti[OCH(CH3)2]4) were purchased form Aldrich. Ethyl alcohol(EtOH, C2H5OH), Nitric acid (HNO3, 64~66 %), n-butyl alcohol(n-butanol, CH3 [CH2]3OH), silver nitrate(AgNO3, 99.8 %), and ammonium fluoride(NH4F, 97 %) were purchased form Duksan. Hydrochloric acid(HCl, 36.5~38 %) and isopropyl alcohol (IPA, C3H8O) was purchased from J. T. Baker and Dong- Woo Fine-Chem, respectively.

    2.2 Preparation of TiO2/SiO2-based thin films

    The thin films of Ag, F and Ag-F co-doped TiO2/SiO2 double layer were prepared by a sol-gel method. Initially, SiO2 thin film was prepared according to a previous report.16) SiO2-sol was aged for 2 days and then used to coat the glass substrate using a spin coater. After spin coating, the SiO2-coated glass substrate was annealed at 400 °C for 1hr.

    The TiO2 sol was prepared by mixing titanium tetraisopropoxide with ethanol, n-butanol, deionized water, and HCl. Similarly, Ag-TiO2, F-TiO2 and Ag-F-TiO2 sol were prepared using precursors such as AgNO3 and NH4F. TiO2 sol, Ag-TiO2 sol, F-TiO2 sol and Ag-F-TiO2 sol were aged for 12hr, then each sol was spin coated on a glass substrate using a spin coater and annealed at 500 °C for 1 hr. Table 1 represents the molar ratio of chemical precursors used to prepare sols. The prepared thin films of TiO2/SiO2, Ag-TiO2/SiO2, F-TiO2/SiO2 and Ag-F-TiO2/SiO2 were denoted as TS, ATS, FTS, and AFTS, respectively.

    2.3 Materials characterization

    The XRD patterns of thin films were acquired on an X-ray diffraction(New D8-Advance, Bruker-AXS) with a 2θ range of 20~80°. The optical properties of the thin films were studied on a UV-Vis spectrometer(S-4100, SCINCO). The surface morphology of the samples was investigated using a scanning electron microscopy(Field Emission S-4700, Hitachi) and transmission electron microscopy(TECNAI F20 G2, FEI). The XPS measurement was carried out on an X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy( VG ESCALAB 220i, Thermo Scientific). Surface hydrophilicity of the films was quantified from measurements of the water contact angle. Experiments were performed at room temperature using a goniometer (Surface tech, GSTD, Korea) attached to a camera. Water contact angles were measured on the thin film surface by dropping water droplets(2 μL) at pH 5.7. The photoinduced hydrophilicity of the films was measured using a UV lamp(Daytime CFL 20W Black-light, Korea). The peak wavelength of a UV-lamp was 365 nm.

    2.4 Photocatalytic reaction measurement

    The photocatalytic activity was evaluated for degradation of methylene blue(MB) solution under UV and visible light irradiation. The thin films(2.5 × 2.5 cm2) were dipped into 5 mL MB solution(2ppm). Prior to the photocatalytic reaction was carried out, the thin film was kept in the dark under magnetic stirring for 1 h for the saturation adsorption of MB on the coatings. UV lamp (Day time CFL 20W Black light, Korea) and incandescent bulb (NB-220-C 200W, Lanxi China) with ultraviolet light filter(Kenko zeta UV L41, Japan) were used for UV and visible light irradiation, respectively. The concentration of MB aqueous solution was determined every 15 min with a UV-Vis spectrometer(S-4100, SCINCO).

    3. Results and Discussion

    3.1 XRD analysis

    The XRD patterns of thin films are shown in Fig. 1. The obtained diffraction patterns are crystalline in nature and clearly matched with the anatase phase TiO2(JCPDS 21-1272). No diffraction patterns of rutile or brookite were detected in these samples. In case of Ag containing samples(Ag-TiO2 and Ag-F-TiO2), no any peak of silver was detected in the diffraction patterns. This may be due to the low concentration of silver below the detection limit. Also, F-doping did not cause any shift in peak position of TiO2 phase because the ionic radius of fluorine atom(0.133 nm) is almost similar to the substituted oxygen atom(0.132 nm).13) The crystallite size of the samples were estimated using the Debye-Scherrer equation. The crystallite sizes calculated for TS, ATS, FTS and AFTS were about 18.99 nm, 18.88 nm, 19.08 nm and 19.10 nm, respectively. Our XRD results are in good agreement with previous reports and it was found that the Ag and F doping in TiO2 does not affects crystal structure of TiO2 thin films.17)

    3.2 Optical properties

    The optical absorption spectra of the thin films are shown in Fig. 2. The optical absorption of TiO2 thin film was in the UV region. ATS thin film showed strong absorption peak at 401 nm which is due to the dipole resonance of silver nanoparticles.18,19) No any significant shift was observed for F-doped TiO2 thin films. Previous reports suggest that the optical properties of TiO2 are not affected by F-doping.20) The absorption edge of AFTS samples shows significant red shift in the visible light region. This can be attributed to the surface plasmon resonance effect of silver nanoparticles and F centers generated by substituted oxygen vacancies with F dopant. The UV-Vis transmittance spectra of the thin films are shown in Fig. 3. The transmittance values observed for thin film samples were about 75 %, 72 %, 69 %, and 65 % for TS, ATS, FTS, and AFTS sample, respectively.

    3.3 Morphological properties

    SEM images of all thin film samples are shown in Fig. 4. Almost spherical particles of few nanometer in size were detected in all thin film samples. As shown in images, F and Ag containing samples also shows uniform porous structure of the thin film. Fig. 3(e) shows crosssectional view of a representative AFTS sample. The thickness of SiO2 and TiO2 layer were found to be 215 nm and 74 nm, respectively.

    Fig. 5 shows TEM images of ATS and AFTS samples. TEM images clearly shows that the Ag NPs are uniformly dispersed on the surface of TiO2. The size of Ag and TiO2 NPs were found to be 2 nm and 12 nm, respectively.

    3.4 XPS analysis

    The chemical state of Ti, O, F, and Ag were analyzed by XPS measurement as shown in Fig. 6. For TiO2, Ti 2p3/2 and Ti 2p1/2 peaks are detected at 458.49 eV and 464.28 eV, respectively. The splitting between the Ti 2p1/2 and Ti 2p3/2 is 5.79 eV, indicating a normal state of Ti4+ in the sample.21) The peak observed at 530 eV is assigned to lattice oxygen of TiO2. Fig. 6(b) shows the XPS of ATS sample in which the Ag 3d5/2 and Ag 3d3/2 binding energy regions are found at 367.8 and 373.8 eV, respectively. The corresponding spin energy separation is 6.0 eV. This is the characteristic of metallic Ag, confirming that the Ag present in the metallic state.22) The XPS of FTS and AFTS is shown in Fig. 6(c-d). The binding energy peak at 684.3 eV indicates that the fluorine is present in the thin films sample in the form of TiF4 and/or physically adsorbed F− on TiO2. Similarly, the peak at 688 eV could assigned to nonstoichiometric solid solution of F in TiO2 of the TiO2-xFx type.23) Fig. 7 shows high resolution XPS spectra of O1s configuration for TS, ATS, FTS, and AFTS samples. The Ti-O peak intensity was in the order of AFTS < ATS < FTS < TS, while the surface hydroxyl peak intensity was in the order of TS < FTS < ATS < AFTS. The higher hydroxyl density was found for AFTS sample which might be beneficial to trap holes reaching the surface region of the film. This leads to the enhancement of both the charge transfer efficiency and photocatalytic activity.

    3.5 Photo-induced hydrophilicity

    Hydrophilicity of the prepared thin films were studied using water contact angle measurements under UV light irradiation. Fig. 8 shows the contact angles of all thin film samples. Before UV light irradiation, the nature of thin films was hydrophobic and the water contact angles of all thin films were in the range of 21-24°. After UV light irradiation, the water contact angles decreased to about 4° within 5 min of UV irradiation. All thin film samples showed super hydrophilicity upon UV light irradiation.

    3.6 Photocatalytic activity

    In order to evaluate the self-cleaning activity of the films and to give an example of potential applications, photocatalytic activity of the thin films was evaluated by photocatalytic degradation of methylene blue aqueous solution under UV and visible light irradiation. The concentration of MB solution under dark conditions (without light) didn’t change. Also, in presence of light irradiation and without thin films, the concentration of MB solution remains constant. Therefore, the degradation of MB solution can be occurred by both light irradiation and photocatalytic thin film.

    Fig. 9 and Fig. 10 show the MB degradation profiles for all samples(TS, ATS, FTS, and AFTS coating films) under UV and visible light irradiation, respectively. Upon visible light irradiation, pure TiO2 sample did not show any photo-activity, but other samples of ATS, FTS and AFTS showed photocatalytic activities because of formed F centers13) and surface plasmon resonance effect of Ag dopant.24) It is shown that the photo-activity of AFTS thin film under UV as well as visible light was higher than that of other samples. In agreement with previous researches, the incorporation of Ag on F-TiO2 is a promising way to enhance the photocatalytic performance.25) The F-TiO2 thin film showed lower photocatalytic activity than the Ag-TiO2 thin film under UV and visible light irradiation. The photocatalytic activity was high in the order of AFTS > TS > FTS > ATS under UV and AFTS > ATS > FTS > TS under visible light irradiation, respectively.

    The enhanced photocatalytic activity of the AFTS thin film may be due to the difference in Fermi level of Ag and F-TiO2. As the Fermi level of Ag is lower than that of F-TiO2, the photo-induced electrons can transfer to the Ag particles loaded on the surface of TiO2. Then, the transferred electrons are trapped by Ag and separated effectively. Ultimately, more reactive oxygen species are generated due to the photo-generated charge carriers and enhance the photocatalytic activity.26) In addition, the surface plasmon resonance of Ag particles on F-TiO2 is excited by visible light, enhancing the surface electron excitation and photo-generated charge carrier separation. The combined effect of Ag played an important role to transfer electrons from the sample surface to adsorbed O2, and to inject photo-excited electrons into the F-TiO2 conduction band, producing separated electrons and holes, which can react with adsorbates.

    It has been reported that in the F doped TiO2, doped F can convert Ti4+ to Ti3+ by charge compensation.27) Upon light irradiation, photo-generated electrons accumulate at the lower lying surface state of Ti3+, while holes accumulate at the valence band of TiO2. The photogenerated electrons could easily diffuse after doping fluorine, and then captured by Ag.28) The hydroxyl density of AFTS was higher than that of other samples, so the AFTS sample is efficient to trap holes reaching the surface region of the thin film, which ultimately enhance photocatalytic activity by promoting charge transportation.

    4. Conclusions

    TiO2/SiO2 thin films doped with F, Ag and Ag-F were successfully prepared by a sol-gel method, followed by spin coating. Optical analysis confirmed that the Ag-FTiO2/ SiO2 coating film showed good visible light absorption. All prepared thin films of (Ag-TiO2, F-TiO2, and Ag-F-TiO2)/SiO2 showed excellent self-cleaning and photocatalytic properties. Self-cleaning performance of Ag-F-TiO2/SiO2 thin film was higher than other samples under UV and visible light. This higher self-cleaning performance of Ag-F-TiO2/SiO2 film was mainly attributed to the synergetic effect of F and Ag dopant, enhancing the formation of oxygen vacancies and the separation of electron-hole pairs.


    This research work was supported by a grant(17- CTAP-C133057-01) from Infrastructure and transportation technology promotion research program funded by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport of the Korean government.



    XRD patterns of TiO2, Ag-TiO2, F-TiO2 and Ag-F-TiO2 thin films.


    UV-Vis absorbance spectra of TiO2, Ag-TiO2, F-TiO2 and Ag- F-TiO2 thin films.


    UV-vis transmittance spectra of TiO2, Ag-TiO2, F-TiO2 and Ag-F-TiO2 thin films.


    SEM surface images of (a) TS, (b) ATS, (c) FTS, (d) AFTS, and (e) cross section of AFTS films.


    TEM images of (a) ATS and (b) AFTS films.


    Survey XPS spectra of (a) TS, (b) ATS, (c) FTS, and (d) AFTS films(Inset: high-resolution XPS spectra of Ag 3d and F 1S).


    High-resolution XPS spectra of O 1S for (a) TS, (b) ATS, (c) FTS, and (d) AFTS films.


    Contact angles of photocatalysts(TiO2, Ag-TiO2, F-TiO2, and Ag-F-TiO2)/SiO2 under UV light irradiation.


    Comparisons of photo-decomposition for MB solution with photocatalysts(TiO2, Ag-TiO2, F-TiO2, Ag-F-TiO2)/SiO2 under UV light irradiation.


    Comparisons of photo-decomposition for MB solution with photocatalysts(TiO2, Ag-TiO2, F-TiO2, and Ag-F-TiO2)/SiO2 under visible light irradiation.


    Molar ratios of chemical precursors.


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