Phenolic compounds such as caffeic acid (CA), ferulic acid (FA), gallic acid (GA), rosmarinic acid (RA), and chlorogenic acid, etc., are a class of compounds that are essential to humans and plants. Particularly, CA, FA, GA, RA, and chlorogenic acid have several biological and chemical properties such as antioxidant, chelating tendency with metals, good scavengers for oxygen species, and electrophiles, thereby having the potential ability to modify various enzymatic activities. Among all of them, CA acts as a significant component mainly for plant biomass and also an intermediate in lignin biosynthesis (Khuwijitjaru et al. 2014, Medina et al. 2012, Ozturk et al. 2012, Villegas et al. 2016). CA is considered an important human, environmental, and socio-economic development despite several advantages of the phenolic compounds. However, the presence of a large amount of CA in the wastewater leads to a negative impact on the environment, subsequently, human and animal health. Olive milling discharge contains a high amount of CA, and its disposal is one of the significant challenges nowadays for environmental and agronomical aspects. CA is mainly responsible for the high value of chemical oxygen demands (COD) that reduce the dissolved oxygen, thereby detrimental health effects on aquatic life. CA has unusual antimicrobial activity, a carcinogen, and phytotoxic ability; thereby, CA compounds developed resistance to the biological degradation that leads to infertility of soils and groundwater contamination and detrimental effects on human health (Anwar et al. 2012, Bai et al. 2014, Capasso et al. 1995, Espíndola et al. 2019, Hernandez &Edyvean 2018, Iwahashi 2015, Magnani et al. 2014, Venditti et al. 2015). In this context, numerous materials need to be synthesized to remove CA compounds from the water.
In the last few decades, various processes like coagulation, adsorption, co-precipitation, and reverse osmosis have been applied to remove CA contamination from the wastewater. However, relatively lesser removal efficiency and higher cost limit their applicability towards end applications. Moreover, the photocatalytic efficiency also depends on the types of materials and pollutants (Khulbe &Matsuura 2018, Talreja et al. 2014). In this perspective, the photocatalytic process has a significant advantage over many physical methods that can destroy contaminants. The photocatalytic process has the potential ability due to its natural energy utilization that might be an ultimate solution for the degradation of CA from the wastewater.
The photocatalysis process becomes the most widely used method to treat the various organic and inorganic contaminants. Usually, the photocatalysis process mainly depends on the photocatalyst materials. Moreover, the photodegradation efficiency of the multiple contaminants might be increased with the help of developing the hybrid photocatalyst materials (Ajmal et al. 2014, Pawar et al. 2018). Several photocatalyst materials (TiO2, C3N4, layered double hydroxides (LDH), graphene, and bismuth oxy-halides, etc.,) and their hybrid materials (carbon-doped TiO2, Ce doped CoOOH catalyst, and Cr2S3-Bi2O3) have been developed so far for the degradation of the various contaminants (Ashfaq et al. 2021, Silva et al. 2009, Talreja et al. 2021a, Venditti et al. 2015, Yáñez et al. 2016). For example, carbon-doped TiO2 for the visible light degradation of CA The TiO2 sample was doped with glucose and kept inside the oven at 160 ºC. The synthesized carbon-doped TiO2 based photocatalyst was mesoporous, efficiently removing CA due to the synergetic effects (both adsorption and photodegradation) (Silva et al. 2009).
Recently, the bismuth-based photocatalyst is continuously gaining attention due to its low bandgap and excellent performance in various applications such as solar cells, antibiotic activity, energy storage, and photodegradation of various organic and inorganic pollutants (Chen et al. 2020, Darkwah et al. 2019, Monfort &Plesch 2018, Talreja et al. 2021b). The bismuth oxides or complex oxide are often used as an efficient photocatalyst due to the low bandgap, high photocatalytic activity, and high stability (Ibrahim et al. 2020, Subbarao 1962, Zhao et al. 2014). However, the relatively less degradation efficiency of contaminants still needs concern. Therefore, there is a required order to synthesize newer materials or amendments in the existing photocatalyst materials to increase photodegradation efficiency. In this aspect, the incorporation of metal ions might be advantageous that easily tune the bandgap and enhances the photodegradation efficiency.
Copper (Cu) is extensively used in various applications like environmental remediation, energy, antimicrobial, agriculture, wound healing, and photocatalysis (Ashfaq et al. 2014, Ashfaq et al. 2016, 2017, Hassan et al. 2019, Sasidharan et al. 2021, Yoong et al. 2009). Cu has been used as a dopant material within the semiconductor materials that quickly tuned the bandgap of the materials, thereby improving the photodegradation efficiency. Usually, incorporating Cu into the semiconductor materials has been done by using different methods such as impregnation, deposition, and surface modification. However, the aggregation and leach-out ability lead to contamination of the environments (Aguilar et al. 2013, López et al. 2009, Slamet et al. 2005). Therefore, the incorporation of metal ions during the synthesis process might be resolved such issues associated with the simple doping process. The unique combination of bismuth oxide and Cu might be an effective photocatalyst for the degradation of CA.
The present study describes the synthesis of Cu-bismuth oxide (CuBi2O4) based nanorods using a simple co-precipitation method for the photodegradation of CA. The incorporation of Cu metal ions within the bismuth oxide skeleton during the synthesis process of nanorods might be beneficial to avoid the agglomeration of metal ions and leach out within the wastewater. Moreover, the bandgap values can be easily tuned with the varying amount of Cu metal within the CuBi2O4 based nanorods. Therefore, synthesis for CuBi2O4 based nanorods is a facile and one-step process at room temperature applied for the degradation of CA by using solar radiation. The main aim of the present study is to develop simple, effective, and promising photocatalyst materials for the degradation of CA that offer new tools for contributing to the challenging waste disposal issue associated with the phenolic compounds, especially CA.