Heterogeneous photocatalytic treatment of pharmaceutical micropollutants: Effects of wastewater effluent matrix and catalyst modifications

Jihyun Choi, Hongshin Lee, Yeoseon Choi, Soonhyun Kim, Seokheon Lee, Seunghak Lee, Wonyong Choi, Jaesang Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


This study evaluates the applicability of TiO2-based photocatalysts for the treatment of pharmaceutical micropollutants in secondary wastewater effluent (SWE). Photolytic experiments using SWEs with different compositions demonstrated that the rates of photocatalytic degradation of acetaminophen and carbamazepine inversely correlated with the concentration of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), regardless of the type of applied light source and initial pharmaceutical concentration. The critical relevance of organic matter to the scavenging behavior of SWE was further verified by assessing the photocatalytic performance as a function of the concentrations of potential effluent-derived quenchers (i.e., NO3-, Cl-, alkalinity, and humic acid). Kinetic comparison of the degradation of trace levels of pharmaceuticals (i.e., caffeine, cimetidine, propranolol, and sulfamethoxazole) using TiO2/UV-A, TiO2/UV-C, and H2O2/UV-C systems revealed that heterogeneous processes showed more significant performance reduction with increasing DOC concentration; this result indicates that organic matter plays dual roles in the scavenging activity of an effluent matrix: (1) OH radical (OH) quenching and (2) active-site coverage. TiO2 surface modifications (i.e., Pt and SiOx loading) accelerated the degradation of all the tested pharmaceuticals in SWEs to a certain degree. Particularly, the relevant altered surface affinity preferentially increased the susceptibility of specific pharmaceuticals to photocatalytic treatment. The presence of the effluent matrix substantially impaired the performance of visible-light-active photocatalysts in most cases. However, photocatalytic pharmaceutical degradation on Pt-doped TiO2, which occurs via direct charge transfer, was much less hindered in SWEs than that on Pt-deposited WO3, which occurs via OH-mediated oxidation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-16
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Catalysis B: Environmental
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Apr 5
Externally publishedYes


  • Heterogeneous photocatalytic oxidation
  • Pharmaceutical micropollutants
  • Quenching activity
  • Secondary wastewater effluent
  • Surface modification
  • Visible light activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology


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