A microemulsion technique was employed to synthesize nano-sized photocatalysts with a core (CdS)/shell (ZnS) structure. The primary particles of the photocatalysts were around 10 nm, and the mean size of the catalyst clusters in water was about 100 nm. The band gaps of the catalysts ranged from 2.25 to 2.46 eV. The experiments of photocatalytic H2 generation showed that the catalysts (CdS)x/(ZnS)1−x with x ranging from 0.1 to 1 were able to produce hydrogen from water photolysis under visible light. The catalyst with x=0.9 had the highest rate of hydrogen production. The catalyst loading density also influenced the photo-hydrogen production rate, and the best catalyst concentration in water was 1 g L−1. The stability of the nano-catalysts in terms of size, morphology and activity was satisfactory during an extended test period for a specific hydrogen production rate of 2.38 mmol g−1 L−1 h−1 and a quantum yield of 16.1% under visible light (165 W Xe lamp, λ>420 nm). The results demonstrate that the (CdS)/(ZnS) core/shell nano-particles are a novel photo-catalyst for renewable hydrogen generation from water under visible light. This is attributable to the large band-gap ZnS shell that separates the electron/hole pairs generated by the CdS core and hence reduces their recombinations.
Keywords: core/shell structure, hydrogen generation, microemulsion, nano-photocatalyst, renewable energy, visible light