Photodecomposition of chloroform catalyzed by unmodified MCM- 41 mesoporous silica

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Unactivated MCM-41 mesoporous silica catalyzes the photodecomposition of chloroform to phosgene and hydrogen chloride under near-UV (λ > 360 nm) irradiation. The rate of photodecomposition increases toward an asymptotic limit as the O2 partial pressure is increased. Deuterochloroform does not decompose under the same experimental conditions. Low concentrations of both cyclohexane and ethanol quench the photodecomposition, whereas water, up to its solubility limit, does not. Dissolved tetraalkylammonium salts suppress photodecomposition. The data are consistent with a mechanism in which light absorption by an SiO2 defect yields an electron-deficient oxygen atom, which then abstracts hydrogen from chloroform. The resulting CCl3 radicals react with oxygen to form a peroxy radical that decomposes, eventually yielding phosgene and hydrogen chloride.