Efficient degradation of Congo red and phenol by a new photocatalyst Ag/AgBr-Al-attapulgite composite under visible light irradiation


Nowadays the concern on the treatment of refractory organic pollutants (e.g., Congo red and phenolic compounds) in industrial wastewaters and their treated effluents with conventional technologies has been still continuously increasing. In this study, a novel visible light photocatalyst material, Ag/AgBr and Al loading on the attapulgite (ATP), was prepared for efficiently catalyzing the photodegradation of the two refractory substances, and its photocatalytic performance and recyclability were assessed. Results from transmission electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction confirmed the successful loading of Ag/AgBr and Al on the ATP. The prepared Ag/AgBr-Al-ATP composite presented substantially better catalytic performance than Ag/AgBr alone probably because the ATP as a carrier of catalyst provided more contact surface for catalyst Ag/AgBr and Congo red/phenol. In the Ag/AgBr-Al-ATP composite, the photocatalyst AgBr content increased from 20.4 to 34.9% due to the modification of ATP by Al. Correspondingly, the Ag/AgBr-Al-ATP composite presented its excellent photocatalytic performance under visible light irradiation: photodegradation efficiencies of Congo red and phenol of 1.73 mg/100 mg and 0.86 mg/100 mg were achieved. With the increase of pH, the photolysis efficiencies of Congo red and phenol both first increased and then decreased, whereas the optimal photocatalytic performance occurred at pH 7 for Congo red and pH 10 for phenol. The Ag/AgBr-Al composite presented a high catalytic activity for photolysis of Congo red and phenol in all the four consecutive reused cycles. The results in this study comprehensively demonstrated a promising photocatalyst for efficient removal of the similar refractory organics presented in industrial wastewaters, which deserves further investigation and development.

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The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


This study was financially supported by Shanghai Science and Technology Project (No. 19DZ1205202) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41971055 and No. 41907270).

Author information




Yun He and Chiquan He designed and conducted the experiment and write the manuscript. Feifei Wang supervised the experiment and reviewed the paper. Xuanlin Guo assisted the experiment. Zhenzhen Zhao assisted the analysis. Xinying Zhang participated in the discussion of experiment progress. Xueping Chen reviewed the paper. Xiaoyan Liu formulated the concept and reviewed the paper.

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Correspondence to Feifei Wang.

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He, Y., He, C., Wang, F. et al. Efficient degradation of Congo red and phenol by a new photocatalyst Ag/AgBr-Al-attapulgite composite under visible light irradiation. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-12737-9

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  • Water treatment
  • Industrial wastewater
  • Refractory organic pollutants
  • Photolysis
  • Composite
  • Congo red
  • Phenol