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What is Photocatalyst

The principle of photocatalytic reaction was to accelerate the nature’s cleaning and purifying process using light as energy.




The word photocatalysis is a composite word which is composed of two parts, “photo” and “catalysis”. Catalysis is the process where a substance participates in modifying the rate of a chemical transformation of the reactants without being altered or consumed in the end. This substance is known as the catalyst which increases the rate of a reaction by reducing the activation energy.


Discovered in 1960’s, Dr. Fujishima of Japan found titanium metal, after irradiated by light, could break water molecule into oxygen and hydrogen gas. By restructuring titanium dioxide particles in nano-scale, a number of new physical and chemical properties were discovered. One of these newfound effects was photocatalytic oxidation which accelerated the formation of hydroxyl radical, one of the strongest oxidizing agents created by nature.


Using energy found in the UV light, photocatalyst titanium dioxide could breakdown numerous organic substances such as oil grime and hydrocarbons from car exhaust and industrial smog, volatile organic compounds found in various building materials and furniture, organic growth such as fungus and mildew.


In addition to its photocatalytic oxidation effect, titanium dioxide coating also exhibited hydrophilic property (or high water-affinity) which titanium dioxide coating attracted water moist in the air to form an invisible film of water. This thin film of water allowed the substrate to be anti-static so the coated surface could be easily cleaned by rinse of water. For years, titanium dioxide was used in many commodity products such as paint, cosmetics, sun blocks, and etc. It is a safe and stable substance commonly found in our lives. Numerous applications have been developed from utilizing photocatalytic reaction.



A promising approach for remediating air quality contaminants is to employ photocatalyst that oxidize these compounds. By definition, photocatalyst is a catalyst that accelerates photoreaction.


Here table 1 below describes the excellent functionality of photocatalysts. When exposed to weak ultraviolet radiation either from the sun or from a fluorescent light source, photocatalysts produce a strong and repeated oxidizing effect that destroys organic matter-containing harmful substances
through the process of oxidative decomposition.

Antibacterial agents Effect and functions Merits and demerits

Titanium dioxide

  • Antibacterial and mold-proofing properties
  • Dissolves grime
  • Purifies air and water
  • Super hydrophilic
  • No harmful side effects, semi-permanent effect
  • Uses clean energy (light)
  • Needs light

Metals (silver, copper, etc.)

  • Antibacterial properties only
  • Toxic and with limited effect
  • Induce discoloration

Organic compounds

  • Antibacterial and mold-proofing properties


  • Toxicity is a problem

Have no lasting effect


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