Sol–gel synthesis of upconversion perovskite/attapulgite heterostructures for photocatalytic fixation of nitrogen

  • Haiguang Zhang
  • Xiazhang LiEmail author
  • Huan Su
  • Xiaofan Chen
  • Shixiang Zuo
  • Xiangyu Yan
  • Wenjie Liu
  • Chao YaoEmail author
Original Paper: Sol-gel and hybrid materials for catalytic, photoelectrochemical and sensor applications


Ammonia synthesis consumes large amounts of energy in traditional industry and causes considerable air pollution to the atmosphere. Therefore, developing green strategies and novel catalysis for NH3 synthesis under ambient conditions using renewable energy is strongly desired. In this work, Er-doped lanthanum cobaltite/attapulgite composites (LaCoO3:Er3+/ATP) were prepared by a sol–gel method. The influence of the Er doping ratio and LaCoO3:Er3+ loading amount on the generation rate of ammonia under visible-light irradiation were investigated. The results show that Er3+-doped LaCoO3 can convert visible light into ultraviolet light and reach the highest conversion rate when the doping amount of the Er element is 6 mol%, which enhances the utilization of solar energy. ATP contributes to the adsorption of N2 and the Co dopant weakens the N≡N bond favoring the activation of N2. Moreover, a direct Z-scheme heterostructure is constructed between LaCoO3:Er3+ and ATP when the loading amount is 10 wt%, which facilitates the separation of charge carriers and preserves the high redox potentials, leading to the enhanced photocatalytic nitrogen fixation performance.


  • LaCoO3:Er3+/ATP nanocomposite prepared by sol-gel method.

  • Er3+ doped LaCoO3 convert visible light into ultraviolet light.

  • Co dopant weakens the N≡N bond favoring the activation of N2.

  • Z-scheme LaCoO3:Er3+/ATP enhances the potantial for nitrogen fixation.


Attapulgite LaCoO3 Photocatalysis Upconversion Photocatalytic fixation nitrogen 



This study was funded by the National Science Foundation of China (51674043 and 51702026), Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Advanced Catalytic Materials and Technology (BM2012110), and Postgraduate Research & Practice Innovation Program of Jiangsu Province (SJCX19_0831).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Advanced Catalysis and Green Manufacturing Collaborative Innovation CenterChangzhou UniversityChangzhouP. R. China
  2. 2.Department of Materials Science and EngineeringUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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