Synthesis, characterization, photocatalytic, and antimicrobial activity of ZrO2 nanoparticles and Ag@ZrO2 nanocomposite prepared by the advanced oxidative process/hydrothermal route


ZrO2 nanoparticles (ZrO2 NPs) and Ag@ZrO2 nanocomposite (Ag@ZrO2 NCs) were prepared from zirconium (IV) butoxide in the absence of base or acid mineraliser by the advanced oxidation processes (AOP) and subsequent hydrothermal treatment. Samples were characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscope (SEM), Raman, Photoluminescence (PL), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR), and diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS). XRD and Raman analyses confirmed ZrO2 NPs and Ag@ZrO2 NCs tetragonal crystalline phase synthesized at 200 °C for 1 h. HRTEM images of ZrO2 NPs and Ag@ZrO2 NCs after treatment at 200 °C indicated small nanoparticles with characteristic size of 5–8 nm (ZrO2) and 40–50 nm (Ag NPs). It was found that Ag@ZrO2 NCs showed outstanding photocatalytic activity in photodegradation Rhodamine B dye compared with pure ZrO2 NPs. Antibacterial activity tests of ZrO2 NPs and Ag@ZrO2 NCs were carried out using E. coli and S. aureus as model strains of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, respectively. Ag@ZrO2 NCs were capable of efficiently growth inhibition of bacteria cultures in more than 75% E. Coli compared to ZrO2 NPs that exhibited <10% instead. However, at the same concentration (for example 0.25 mg/mL) we found that both ZrO2 NPs and Ag@ZrO2 NCs were significantly more effective against S. aureus in comparison with E. coli showing bacterial growth inhibition higher than 90% for S. aureus. Morphological observation of bacterial cells by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) revealed that nanoparticles and nanocomposite caused irreversible damage to the cell membrane.


  • Antimicrobial and catalysis properties of ZrO2 and Ag@ZrO2 were investigated by kinetic process.

  • Ag@ZrO2 nanocomposite showed 99% degradation of RhB in 60 min under 467 nm LED light irradiation.

  • Ag@ZrO2 nanocomposite showed superior antibacterial properties compared to pure ZrO2 NPs.

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This study was financially supported by the Brazilian agencies FAPESP and CNPq. In particular, we would like to acknowledge CEPID/CMDMC/CDMF/INCTMN, FAPESP processes no. 11/20536-7, 12/14106-2, and 13/07296-2, and CNPq process no. 470147/2012-1.

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Correspondence to F. M. Pontes.

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Nova, C.V., Reis, K.A., Pinheiro, A.L. et al. Synthesis, characterization, photocatalytic, and antimicrobial activity of ZrO2 nanoparticles and Ag@ZrO2 nanocomposite prepared by the advanced oxidative process/hydrothermal route. J Sol-Gel Sci Technol (2021).

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  • Nanocomposite
  • Nanoparticles
  • Hydrothermal route
  • ZrO2
  • Ag