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Langmuir. 2012 Oct 2;28(39):14090-9. doi: 10.1021/la302590g. Epub 2012 Sep 17.

Ultrahigh sensitivity of Au/1D α-Fe2O3 to acetone and the sensing mechanism.

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Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, A*Star, Jurong Island, Singapore.


Hematite (α-Fe(2)O(3)) is a nontoxic, stable, versatile material that is widely used in catalysis and sensors. Its functionality in sensing organic molecules such as acetone is of great interest because it can result in potential medical applications. In this report, microwave irradiation is applied in the preparation of one-dimensional (1D) α-FeOOH, thereby simplifying our previous hydrothermal method and reducing the reaction time to just a few minutes. Upon calcination, the sample was converted to porous α-Fe(2)O(3) nanorods, which were then decorated homogeneously by fine Au particles, yielding Au/1D α-Fe(2)O(3) at nominally 3 wt % Au. After calcination, the sample was tested as a potential sensor for acetone in the parts per million range and compared to a similarly loaded Pt sample and the pure 1D α-Fe(2)O(3) support. Gold addition results in a much enhanced response whereas Pt confers little or no improvement. From tests on acetone in the 1-100 ppm range in humid air, Au/1D α-Fe(2)O(3) has a fast response, short recovery time, and an almost linear response to the acetone concentration. The optimum working temperature was found to be 270 °C, which was judged to be a compromise between the thermal activation of lattice oxygen in hematite and the propensity for acetone adsorption. The surface reaction was investigated by diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS), and a possible sensing mechanism is proposed. The presence of Au nanoparticles is believed to promote the dissociation of molecular oxygen better in replenishing O vacancies, thereby increasing the instantaneous supply of lattice oxygen to the oxidation of acetone (to H(2)O and CO(2)), which proceeds through an adsorbed acetate intermediate. This work contributes to the development of next-generation sensors, which offer ultrahigh detection capabilities for organic molecules.

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