The safe and efficient removal of organic micropollutants, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides or caffeine from wastewater remains a major technological and environmental challenge. Here, the synthesis of self-supporting ZnO foam monoliths by direct incorporation of air into the forming gel is presented for the first time. These foams, labelled as MolFoams, showed a highly porous and interconnected structure, allowing for high solution flow rates and fast degradation kinetics of carbamazepine, a widely used pharmaceutical compound, used here as a model micropollutant. Altering the concentration of CTAB used in the formulation of the gels allowed controlling the size of the macropores of the MolFoam in the 0.69-0.84 mm range. Smaller macropores within the MolFoam structure were highly beneficial for the degradation of carbamazepine with pseudo first-order degradation kinetics of 5.43 × 10−3 min−1 for the MolFoams with the smallest macropore size. The best foams were tested in a recirculating reactor, with an optimal flow rate of 250 mL min−1, resulting in a quantum yield of 0.69 and an electrical energy of 21.3 kW h m−3 per order, in addition to high mechanical and chemical stability. These results surpass the performance of photocatalytic slurries and immobilised systems, showing that self-supporting, photocatalytic foams can be an effective solution for the removal of organic micropollutants in wastewater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11542-11552
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Materials Chemistry A
Issue number21
Early online date4 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2022


  • water treatment
  • Pollutant degradation
  • Foams
  • Photocatalysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Materials Science(all)


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