Hydrogen peroxide is a by-product produced inside of the cells of living organisms and has detrimental effects on them. Catalases are enzymes used by the cells to get rid of hydrogen peroxide and protecting them from its harmful impacts. However, if the concentration of H2O2 increases due to disease, exposure to radiation and certain chemicals and medications which surpasses the capacity of catalase, H2O2 begins to accumulate and cause cellular injury. Extracting the catalase enzyme from the cells and using it as a medication is costly, and furthermore, by introducing the enzyme into the human body by injection or ingestion, it will not penetrate into the cells because of its high molecular mass. Therefore, it will function outside the cells and will have a minor effect. On the other hand, the enzyme itself is costly to be stored because it requires special conditions including cooling and lighting. As a result, utilizing compounds that mimetic the enzymatic function of catalase is a welcome method by the researchers.

The famous physicochemical properties of nanomaterials have attracted the attention of researchers in the fields of gas sensors [1], catalysis [2,3,4], energy production [5], medicine [6] and environmental protection [7]. These methods signify the importance of nanomaterials regarding the production of variety of products and better materials [8], such as cosmetics, clothing, computers, medical devices and sports equipment [9]. The transition metal oxides have been in the focus of researchers for several years, due to their basic properties as well as technological applications. The vanadium oxides have different chemical properties and crystal structures depending on their oxidation/valence state [9].

The variable oxidation state of the vanadium is mainly dependent upon the total concentration of vanadium, pH or additional annealing or pretreatment conditions [10]. The oxidation states of vanadium changes from + 2 to + 5. Vanadium oxides exist in various V–O coordination geometrical forms such as VO, V2O3, VO2 and V2O5 [11], [12]. The most stable form among these is the vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) in the V–O system. It has been the center of industrial and applied research owing to its exceptional physical and chemical properties [12]. Various physical as well as chemical methods are applied for the preparation of vanadium pentoxide including chemical evaporation deposition [13], electrochemical deposition, laser ablation [14], precipitation [10], sol–gel synthesis [15] and hydrothermal method [16], [17]. Among the various methods available, hydrothermal method is a simple, easy, inexpensive, high-speed and eco-friendly method [17]. Several phases of V2O5 were identified, such as α-V2O5, β-V2O5 and γ-V2O5. These phases are different in their structures. Both α-V2O5 and γ-V2O5 were found as orthorhombic, while β-V2O5 was found in monoclinic form. The tetragonal α-V2O5 is the most stable among these phases, and all phases are converted into α-V2O5 phase at elevated temperatures [12].

Vanadium-based compounds are used as oxidation agents. The vanadium pentoxide has the highest oxidation state which makes it very important as catalysts in oxidation processes such as oxidation of SO2 to SO3 [18], xylene oxidation to phthalic anhydride [19] and furfural to maleic anhydride [20]. Similarly, some vanadyl complexes were synthesized and characterized for the application as insulin mimetic agents [21]. Moreover, various vanadium–chelate complexes have been reported to have insulin mimetic properties. Due to this, these complexes are very important for pharmacotherapy of diabetes [22, 23]. The physicochemical properties of the nanomaterials are utilized to mimetic the catalytic activity of various enzymes such as catalases, oxidases and peroxidases [24].

Catalase is among the major enzymes with crucial antioxidant function which minimizes the oxidative stress through cellular breakdown of hydrogen peroxide, resulting in the production of oxygen and water. The importance of the catalase enzyme can be estimated from the numerous diseases associated with malfunctioning or deficiency of enzyme. These diseases include cancer, anemia, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder [25].

According to their function and structure, the catalase can be categorized into three main classes. First and second categories are known as heme-containing enzymes hence known as catalase-peroxidases. These are generally found in bacteria, fungi and archaebacteria with 120 and 340 kDa molecular mass. The third category is known as maganese catalase. It is mainly found in bacteria. It has oligomeric structures having molecular mass in the range of 170 and 210 kDa. Two manganese ions can be identified in the hydrogen peroxide decomposition reactions as given below [25, 39]:

$${\text{First step:}}\,{\text{H}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}_{ 2} + {\text{Mn}}^{ + 2} - {\text{Mn}}^{ + 2} + 2{\text{H}}^{ + } \to {\text{Mn}}^{ + 3} - {\text{Mn}}^{ + 3} + 2{\text{H}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}$$
$${\text{Second step:}}\,{\text{H}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}_{ 2} + {\text{Mn}}^{ + 3} - {\text{Mn}}^{ + 3} \to {\text{Mn}}^{ + 2} - {\text{Mn}}^{ + 2} + 2{\text{H}}^{ + } + {\text{O}}_{2}$$

Equations 1 and 2 show the oxidation and reduction steps due to the metal (manganese) in catalase enzyme reaction. On the basis of these reactions, the use of another metal was considered to follow the degradation of H2O2. The motivation of the current work was to develop an advanced colorimetric method to be used for the determination of the catalase mimetic activity of pentavalent metal oxide V2O5 nanoparticles [26, 27]. V2O5 nanoparticles were prepared and used as catalase mimetic enzyme to compare the activity of the vanadia nanoparticles with that of the manganese in the above given reactions. The research concentrated on three focal points:

  1. 1.

    Preparing and characterization of vanadium pentoxide nanoparticles;

  2. 2.

    Mimetic catalase activity studies by using vanadium pentoxide nanoparticles;

  3. 3.

    Using an advanced colorimetric method for assessing the mimetic catalase activity depending on the reaction between potassium permanganate and hydrogen peroxide, depending on the color change of potassium permanganate.

In this research, we studied the activity/catalase mimetic activity of V2O5 nanoparticles by measuring the decrease in potassium permanganate concentration in a mixture containing V2O5 and hydrogen peroxide to determine the surface chemistry properties of the vanadia nanoparticles. V2O5 nanoparticles were prepared by using hydrothermal method from ammonium metavanadate as a precursor and cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) dissolved in ethanol/water mixture solvent as a surfactant solution. The annealing of product was carried out at various temperatures (250, 500 and 750 °C) for 2 h. The characterization of the vanadia nanoparticles was carried out with different techniques to confirm the effectiveness of the synthesis of the desired nanoparticles. The catalytic activity of vanadium pentoxide nanoparticles was studied also in the function of the annealing temperature.


Materials and methods

Ammonium metavanadate (NH4VO5, 99.99%; from Sigma-Aldrich Co.), nitric acid (HNO3, 99%; from Merck Chemicals), cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB, C19H42BrN, 99%; from Merck Chemicals) and ethanol (99.8%; from Sigma-Aldrich Co.) were used for the experiments.

Synthesis of vanadium pentoxide nanoparticles

Hydrothermal method was used for the preparation of vanadium pentoxide nanoparticles, and the process was initiated by dissolving 0.1 g of ammonium metavanadate and 0.1 g of CTAB in a mixture of water–ethanol (100 mL) in the ratio of 7:3, respectively. It was followed by adding nitric acid very slowly under continuous stirring until the pH was set to 2.5. The mixture was refluxed for 6 h. The orange color precipitate was washed with distilled water (10 times), then washed with ethanol and dried in oven at 90 °C for 1 h; then, it was annealed at 250, 500 and 750 °C for 2 h.

Mimetic activity procedure

Determination of mimetic activity of catalase

In order to determine the mimetic activity of catalase, an advanced colorimetric method was developed and used [28]. Standard solution of acidic KMnO4 (0.00185 M) was prepared by titration with standard solution of sodium oxalate (Na2C2O4, 0.14 M). The reaction took place between the reactants according to chemical reaction Eq. 3:

$$2{\text{KMnO}}_{4} + 5{\text{Na}}_{2} {\text{C}}_{2} {\text{O}}_{4} + 8{\text{H}}_{2} {\text{SO}}_{4 } \to 2{\text{MnSO}}_{4} + {\text{K}}_{2} {\text{SO}}_{4} + 5{\text{Na}}_{2} {\text{SO}}_{4} + 10{\text{CO}}_{2} + 8{\text{H}}_{2} {\text{O}}$$

The molarity (M) of the KMnO4 solution can be calculated by Eq. 4:

$${\text{M}}\,{\text{of}}\,{\text{KMnO}}_{ 4} \,{\text{solution}}\, = \,{\text{volume}}\,{\text{of}}\,{\text{Na}}_{ 2} {\text{C}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}_{ 4} \,{\text{used}}\, \times \,{\text{M}}\,{\text{of}}\,{\text{Na}}_{ 2} {\text{C}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}_{ 4} \, \times \,\left( {2/5} \right)\,{\text{volume}}\,{\text{of}}\,{\text{KMnO}}_{ 4}$$

In order to determine the concentration of the hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), unknown concentration of H2O2 was titrated with known concentration of acidic KMnO4 solution. The molarity (M) of the H2O2 solution can be calculated according to chemical reaction Eq. 5:

$$2{\text{KMnO}}_{4} + 5{\text{H}}_{2} {\text{O}}_{2} + 3{\text{H}}_{2} {\text{SO}}_{4} \to 2{\text{MnSO}}_{4} + {\text{K}}_{2} {\text{SO}}_{4} + 5{\text{O}}_{2} + 8{\text{H}}_{2} {\text{O}}$$

The molarity (M) of the H2O2 solution can be calculated by using Eq. 6:

$${\text{M}}\;{\text{of}}\;{\text{H}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}_{ 2} \;{\text{solution }} = {\text{ volume}}\;{\text{of}}\;{\text{KMnO}}_{ 4} \;{\text{required }} \times {\text{ M of}}\;{\text{KMnO}}_{4} \times \, \left( {5/2} \right)\;{\text{volume}}\;{\text{of}}\;{\text{H}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}_{ 2}$$

The maximum absorbance of KMnO4 solution (1 × 10−5 mol mL−1) was determined by using UV–visible spectrophotometry (UV–Vis) in the wavelength range of 400–700 nm. The solutions have exhibited two peaks in the UV–Vis spectrum, and the taller peak is the primary peak (λ max) at 525 nm as shown in Fig. 1a.

Fig. 1
figure 1

a UV–Vis absorption spectrum of the KMnO4 solution (1 × 10−5mol mL−1), b calibration curve of KMnO4 solution (1 × 10−5 mol mL−1) at 525 nm

Standard calibration curve was prepared by using solutions having different KMnO4 concentrations (0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 × 10−5 mol mL−1) to find the relationship between the concentrations and absorbance as given in Fig. 1b.

Catalase mimetic activity was determined by using the reaction of vanadium pentoxide solution and hydrogen peroxide as depicted in chemical reaction (Eq. 7):

$$2 {\text{H}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}_{ 2} \mathop \to\limits{{{\text{V}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}_{ 5} }} {\text{O}}_{2} + {\text{H}}_{ 2} {\text{O}}$$


The following reagents, acidic potassium permanganate solution (1.80 mmol mL−1), hydrogen peroxide (2.25 mmol mL−1) and vanadium pentoxide solution (0.01 mmol mL−1)—by dissolving the vanadium pentoxide in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) solvent—were used in our work. At first, four test tubes were prepared and marked as test (T), control (C), standard (S) and blank (B). Distilled water was added (1.3, 1.5, 2.3 and 2.5 mL spontaneously) to these test tubes, respectively. 0.2 mL of vanadium pentoxide solution (0.01 mmol mL−1) was added to two tubes: control and test tubes; then, those were shaken to make sure of the well mixing. 1 mL of hydrogen peroxide (2.25 mmol mL−1) was added to both tubes (test and standard solution tubes); then, those were shaken well. After 3 min, 0.5 mL of potassium permanganate was added (1.80 mmol mL−1) to all four tubes and those were shaken well. The absorbance at 525 nm was measured as shown in Table 1. The procedure can be explained by the following steps:

Table 1 Procedure used for the measurement of catalase mimetic activity of vanadium pentoxide
  1. 1.

    Distilled water (1.3 mL and 2.3 mL) was added into two test tubes labeled “T1 and C1,” respectively; then, 0.2 mL vanadium pentoxide solutions was added to both test tubes. Following this, 1 mL hydrogen peroxide solution was added into “T1” test tube. After this, all tubes were sealed and thoroughly mixed.

  2. 2.

    After 3 min, 0.5 mL of acidic solution of permanganate was added into both tubes “T1 and B1”; then, all test tubes were mixed with the vortex.

  3. 3.

    The absorbance decrease of KMnO4 is equal to B1–T1 which was measured calorimetrically at 525 nm wavelength by using standard calibration curve (Fig. 1) where B1 and T1 are blank solution tube and standard solution tube, respectively.

  4. 4.

    Catalase mimetic activity was calculated according to the first-order reaction Eq. 8:

    $${\text{Catalase}}\;{\text{mimetic}}\;{\text{activity }}\left( K \right) \, = \, \left( {2.303 \, / \, t} \right) \, \times \, \log \, \left( {A_{o} /A} \right)$$

    where K is the reaction rate of catalase mimetic reaction (i.e., reaction rate of hydrogen peroxide decomposition) [29].

    t : time of reaction in seconds.

    Ao: concentration of H2O2 before the reaction which is equal to absorbance difference of (BS), where B and S are blank solution tube and standard solution tube, respectively.

    A: the concentration of H2O2 after the reaction which is equal to the absorbance difference of control solution tube (C) minus test solution tube (T) multiplied by 5/2.

  5. 5.

    The catalase mimetic activity determination was carried out according to the following steps summarized in Table 1.

Results and discussion

Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) analysis

FTIR spectra of V2O5 samples as-prepared at 90 °C and annealed at 250, 500 and 750 °C were recorded in the wave number range of 4000 cm−1 and 400 cm−1 for functional groups and chemical bonds, and these are presented in Fig. 2. The appearance of the FTIR bands at two different wave numbers (3212 cm−1 and 1661 cm−1) corresponds to O–H stretching and bending vibrations, respectively. The intensity of the bands decreased with increasing the annealing temperature. This clearly indicates the direct relationship between the annealing temperature and bonds. The characteristic peaks at 1020 cm−1, 827 cm−1, 615 cm−1 and 479 cm−1 correspond to the stretching vibration of terminal oxygen bonds (V = O), the vibration of doubly coordinated oxygen (bridging oxygen) bonds (V–O–V), and the asymmetric and symmetric stretching vibrations of triply coordinated oxygen (chain oxygen) bonds, respectively [30].

Fig. 2
figure 2

FTIR spectra of V2O5 samples as-prepared at 90 °C and annealed at 250, 500 and 750 °C temperatures

UV–visible spectroscopic results

The UV-Vis absorption spectra was used to record 0.001 M of V2O5 which dissolved in ethanol. UV–Vis optical properties in the range (200–800) nm at various temperatures (90, 250, 500 and 750 °C) showed temperature-dependent absorbance as given in Fig. 3. It can be seen that the absorption peaks of V2O5 “as-prepared sample” appear around 316 nm (Eg = 2.55 eV). The energy gap increased to 2.63 eV when the sample was annealed at 250 °C, while it decreased to 2.48 eV when the sample was annealed at 500 °C. On the other hand, the energy gap increased again (2.56 eV) when the sample was annealed at 750 °C. On increasing the annealing temperature, the phase change of the vanadia nanoparticles occurred from amorphous to crystalline. The absorption at annealing temperature from 250 to 500 °C changed toward “blueshift,” while the absorption from 500 to 750 °C changed toward “redshift.” The literature refers to this phenomenon as the Burstein–Moss effect [31, 32].

Fig. 3
figure 3

Absorption spectra of V2O5 as-prepared at 90 °C and annealed at 250, 500 and 750 °C

X-ray diffraction results

XRD technique was used to determine the structure of the prepared nanoparticles, using CuKα radiation source (λ = 1.54050 A). The XRD patterns of the nanoparticles powder were recorded by scanning 2θ in the range of 20–80°. The XRD patterns of the V2O5 nanoparticles annealed at different temperatures (90, 250, 500 and 750 °C) for 2 h are shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4
figure 4

XRD records of V2O5 at annealing temperatures: a 90 °C, b 250 °C, c 500 °C and d 750 °C

The main diffraction peaks of V2O5 (Fig. 4 a) at 90 °C 2θ = 15.62°, 26.1°, 31.4°, 40.9°, 50.5° and 58.8°, respectively, correspond to the characteristic diffraction of the (200), (301), (110), (310), (002) and (611) planes of the V2O5 as indexed in the JCPDS card No. 41–142.6 [30]. When V2O5 was annealed at 250 °C, the peaks (010) and (101) appear at 2θ = 20.32° and 21.74°, respectively, which are related to the alpha phase (orthorhombic structure) as shown in Fig. 4b; with increasing the annealing temperature from 250 to 750 °C, the intensity of diffraction peaks (010), (101), (301) and (002) increased, and at the same time, the intensity of diffraction peak (110) decreased until it disappeared at annealing temperature of 750 °C as shown in Fig. 4c and d.

The estimation of the mean size of ordered α-V2O5 nanoparticles can be calculated from Debye–Scherrer formula on the basis of full width at half maximum (FWHM) as per Eq. 9:

$$D = \, K \, \lambda \, \backslash \, \beta \, \cos \, \theta$$

where D is the particle size, K is the shape factor having value 0.89, λ indicates wavelength of X-ray, β in radians shows the line broadening at half of the maximum intensity (FWHM), while θ is known as Bragg angle.

From Debye–Scherrer equation, the mean size of the annealed V2O5 nanoparticles was found to be around 20 nm.

Atomic force microscopic studies

The images obtained from AFM studies at various annealing temperatures of 90, 250, 500 and 750 °C appear to be as granularity accumulation distribution chart of V2O5 as shown in Fig. 5. The average grain sizes (86.02–70.34 nm) are shown in Table 2. The results are self-explanatory since there is a decrease in grain size as the annealing temperatures are increased.

Fig. 5
figure 5

AFM records of V2O5 at annealing temperatures: a 90 °C, b 250 °C, c 500 °C and d 750 °C

Table 2 Variation of grain size of V2O5 annealed at different temperatures

Scanning electron microscopic studies

Field emission scanning electronic microscopic (FE-SEM) studies were carried out on V2O5 nanoparticles to obtain information on the morphology of the prepared samples. The almost perfect shell of vanadium pentoxide nanoparticles was confirmed by FE-SEM image. FE-SEM image also indicated that high-porosity structure can be observed on the sample surface when the annealing temperature was increased. The morphology of the synthesized nanoparticles of vanadium pentoxide changed to form nanoflakes due to increasing the annealing temperature to 500 °C. The SEM image of the vanadia nanoparticles annealed at 500 °C is given in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6
figure 6

SEM image of V2O5 annealed at 500 °C for 120 min

Advanced spectrophotometric method development

The authors developed a new spectrophotometric method to measure the catalase mimetic activity of V2O5 solution [25, 29, 38] that included the use of acidic permanganate solution. In order to calculate the reaction rate, the catalase mimetic activity of V2O5 was determined for samples as-prepared at 90 °C and after annealing at different temperatures 250–750 °C for 120 min. Catalase mimetic activity was calculated according to the first-order reaction equation x. The results show that there is an increase in reaction rate (K) on increasing the annealing temperature of V2O5 and reaches a maximum at annealing temperatures of 500 and 750 °C (K = 3.269 × 10−2 s−1 and 3.282 × 10−2 s−1), respectively (Fig. 7); since these values are very close, the value of 3.269 × 10−2 s−1 was selected at annealing temperature of 500 °C as the best value. These results are summarized in Fig. 7 and Table 3.

Fig. 7
figure 7

Catalase mimetic activity of V2O5 annealed at 90, 250, 500 and 750 °C temperatures for 120 min

Table 3 Reaction rate for H2O2 decomposition as catalase mimetic activity of V2O5 annealed at different temperatures (90–750 °C) for 120 min

If there is no KMnO4 consumption (the color of the solution does not change), it means that the vanadium pentoxide nanoparticles decomposed all the hydrogen peroxide and it works as catalase. If there is KMnO4 consumption, it results in color change and it means that V2O5 nanoparticles do not function as catalase and the KMnO4 had to complete the decomposition of H2O2. The catalase mimetic activity of V2O5 annealed at different temperatures (90, 250,500, 750 °C) was studied, and it was conducted that the highest activity, on the basis of changes in permanganate color, can be obtained after annealing the V2O5 nanoparticles at temperature of 500 °C.

Thermal gravimetric studies

TG analytical studies were used for measuring the changes in mass during heating, and differential thermal analysis (DTA) measures the temperature difference between the sample and reference sample. In this way, the changes in the sample, either exothermic or endothermic, can be detected relative to the inert reference. Figure 8 shows the TGA, DTA and high-temperature differential scanning calorimetry (HDSC) records of sample V2O5·nH2O from room temperature to 688 °C. HDSC curves indicated that four stages of conversions can be distinguished. According to [26, 32], the samples indexed as V2O5.nH2O were found to be in monoclinic phase, where the increase in basal plane distance corresponds to the increase in the amount of water molecules. V2OnH2O (n ≈ 1.8) aerogel is obtained when the sample is dried at room temperature in air. If the sample is not heated above 150 °C, the dehydration remains reversible.

Fig. 8
figure 8

Simultaneous TGA, DTA and HDSC on the as-prepared V2O5·nH2O nanopowders

The first stage in Fig. 8 when the sample is heated from 100 to 217 °C indicates a decrease in sample mass of 0.7616 mg because of the removal of adsorbed water molecules between the layers, which are weekly bound [33, 34]. The second stage occurs when the same sample is heated from 217 to 285 °C. The decrease in sample mass is 1.1920 mg due to the removal of all water molecules bonded in the V2O5 sample. These results are in agreement with the literature data [35] and relate to the conversion of CTAB to liquid. (Melting point of CTAB is 243 °C.) The third stage occurs when the sample is heated from 285 to 387 °C. This stage can be characterized with high mass decrease of 4.8544 mg. In the fourth stage heating, the vanadia nanoparticles from 387 to 688 °C induced the loss of the remaining tightly bound water and crystallization of the V2O5 sample into dehydrated orthorhombic form [36, 37]. The fourth stage results in mass loss of 4.1744 mg. The sample remains liquid and in orthorhombic phase. The DTA curve exhibits a high decrease at 322 °C temperature. It means that there is a highly endothermic process, which can be assigned to the start of the crystallization of the V2O5 sample to orthorhombic phase and melting of the sample. Exothermic processes can be observed between 387 and 530 °C due to the complete crystallization and melting of the V2O5 sample, respectively.


Advanced colorimetric method was devised and used first time to determine the catalase mimetic activity of V2O5 nanoparticles using potassium permanganate solution as indicator, instead of the commonly used UV–Vis method which is used by the researchers. Vanadium pentoxide nanoparticles were prepared by hydrothermal method, and the nanoparticles were annealed at different temperatures (250, 500 and 750 °C) for 120 min. The nanoparticles were characterized by using different methods such as XRD, FTIR, UV–Vis, AFM, SEM, TGA and DTA. The UV–Vis records show that there is an increase in band gap (blueshift) with increasing the annealing temperatures. The results show that the phase of V2O5 annealed at 500 °C is orthorhombic and has nanoflakes shape, while the average diameter of the nanoparticles was the smallest (70.34 nm) in this case. The authors were successful in elaborating and using an advanced colorimetric method to determine the catalase mimetic activity of V2O5 annealed at different temperatures. It was found that the annealing temperature of 500 °C results in the best catalase mimetic activity (3.269 × 10−3 s−1) in case of vanadia nanoparticles. Therefore, the optimum annealing temperature is 500 °C.

According to the best knowledge of the authors, this is the first time when this advance colorimetric method is used. It is very easy, accurate and not complicated, as compared with common method (UV–Vis) which depend on the measurement of decrease in absorbance at 240 nm (λmax) of hydrogen peroxide. In UV method, the concentration of H2O2 limited to the range of 5 to 500 mmol mL−1 at low concentration less than 5 mmol mL−1 is undetectable, while at high concentration more than 500 mmol mL−1 it causes mistake in measurement because of oxygen bubbles released from H2O2.