The photocatalytic activity of sepiolite was examined for degradation of several dye compounds under visible light irradiation. Higher adsorption capacities and greater photocatalytic performance of cationic dyes (rhodamine B and methylene blue) were observed on sepiolite, in comparison with anionic dyes (orange II and trypan blue). Superiority in the photocatalytic activity of cationic dyes is attributed to the strong electrostatic attraction and photosensitization properties of cationic dye molecules. Sepiolite has degraded 45.3% rhodamine B within 120 min, which is the greatest photocatalytic degradation efficiency when compared with other dyes. Subsequently, the reusability of spent sepiolite after adsorption of rhodamine B was evaluated by the degradation of trypan blue under the visible light irradiation. The photocatalytic degradation performance of trypan blue by spent sepiolite after adsorption of rhodamine B increased about twice as much as with pristine sepiolite, indicating that the dye-sensitized photocatalytic process could enhance the photocatalytic degradation ability of sepiolite. Through radical scavenger tests, it was found that a superoxide radical is mainly responsible for rhodamine B degradation. The possible mechanism of rhodamine B degradation under visible light irradiation was proposed. The sepiolite could be a potential catalyst for the degradation of organic pollutants in wastewater under solar light.
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