Improved Oxygen Activation over a Carbon/Co3O4 Nanocomposite for Efficient Catalytic Oxidation of Formaldehyde at Room Temperature

Rong Li, Yu Huang (Corresponding Author), Dandan Zhu, Wingkei Ho, Junji Cao, Shuncheng Lee

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Oxygen activation is a key step in the catalytic oxidation of formaldehyde (HCHO) at room temperature. In this study, we synthesized a carbon/Co3O4 nanocomposite (C-Co3O4) as a solution to the insufficient capability of pristine Co3O4 (P-Co3O4) to activate oxygen for the first time. Oxygen activation was improved via carbon preventing the agglomeration of Co3O4 nanoparticles, resulting in small particles (approximately 7.7 nm) and more exposed active sites (oxygen vacancies and Co3+). The removal efficiency of C-Co3O4 for 1 ppm of HCHO remained above 90%, whereas P-Co3O4 was rapidly deactivated. In static tests, the CO2 selectivity of C-Co3O4 was close to 100%, far exceeding that of P-Co3O4 (42%). Various microscopic analyses indicated the formation and interaction of a composite structure between the C and Co3O4 interface. The carbon composite caused a disorder on the surface lattice of Co3O4, constructing more oxygen vacancies than P-Co3O4. Consequently, the surface reducibility of C-Co3O4 was improved, as was its ability to continuously activate oxygen and H2O into reactive oxygen species (ROS). We speculate that accelerated production of ROS helped rapidly degrade intermediates such as dioxymethylene, formate, and carbonate into CO2. In contrast, carbonate accumulation on P-Co3O4 surfaces containing less ROS may have caused P-Co3O4 inactivation. Compared with noble nanoparticles, this study provides a transition metal-based nanocomposite for HCHO oxidation with high efficiency, high selectivity, and low cost, which is meaningful for indoor air purification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4054-4063
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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