Tuning the electronic band structure of graphitic carbon nitride by breaking intramolecular bonds: a simple and effective approach for enhanced photocatalytic hydrogen production

Michell K.T. Chee, Chen Chen Er, Jie Yinn Tang, Lling Lling Tan, Wei Sea Chang, Siang Piao Chai

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9 Citations (Scopus)


In this work, the intramolecular structure of a pristine graphitic carbon nitride (GCN) was modified to investigate how it would affect the photocatalytic activity towards hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) under simulated solar irradiation. The intramolecular bonding of GCN was broken by subjecting it to a simple thermal treatment under a controlled environment. Both experimental and computational studies revealed that removal of inter-heptazine CN(H)C groups from the pristine structure induced an amorphous phase and additional energy bands to GCN. It was also observed that a mid-gap state was formed between the conduction band (CB) of the amorphous carbon nitride (ACN) and the H+/H2 reduction potential. The presence of the mid-gap state not only served as an additional reduction site for HER, but also acted as a buffer to reduce the recombination rate of photogenerated charge carriers. The optimum ACN sample displayed an enhanced photocatalytic performance achieving a HER rate of 789 µmol/gcat, which was about 2-fold higher than that of pristine GCN. This could be ascribed to the synergistic effect of improved light absorption, increased surface area, suppressed charge recombination and increased charge carrier densities for the ACN samples to drive the overall reduction–oxidation process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146600
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Surface Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Amorphous carbon nitride
  • Crystallinity
  • Defect engineering
  • DFT
  • Hydrogen evolution reaction
  • Photocatalysis

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