BIT’s progress in the structural modification of graphitic carbon nitride and its application in the field of environment and energy

News Resource & Photographer: School of Life Science

Editor: News Agency of BIT

Translator: Shao Yikang, News Agency of BIT


Recently, Green Biomanufacturing Research Group from School of Life Science made great progress in the study of the structural modification of graphitic carbon nitride (g-C3N4) and its application in the field of environment and energy. The relevant achievements were published in the top authoritative journal Chemical Engineering Journal (Impact Factor13.273), entitling “Hollow Polymeric Ionic Liquid Spheres with Hierarchical Electron Distribution: A Novel Composite of g-C3Nfor Visible Light Photocatalytic Water Splitting Enhancement”. The joint lead authors of this project are He Bin, the 2019 Grade Ph.D. Student from School of Life Science, and Chen Shengxin, the 2018 Grade Ph.D. Student from School of Chemical Engineering and Technology in Tianjin University. The corresponding author is Professor Sun Jian.


Fig.1: The research group carried out a series of work based on g-C3N4

As a non-metallic organic photoresponsive semiconductor, g-C3Nhas many advantages such as easy to synthesize, stable physicochemical properties, friendly to environment, responsive to visible light and appropriate band gap. Benefiting from these, it can be widely used in environment and energy fields like sewage disposal, CO2 reduction and hydrogen production by photolysis of water. Given that g-C3N4 has suffered from low abundance ration on its superficial area, severe recombination of photoinduced charge carriers and weak ability of harvesting visible light and other problems, it needs to be structurally modified. In this connection, the research group has examined different modifications in the early stage, including constructing derived carbon/g-C3N4heterojunction, ion decorated homojunction and so on, to derive excellent g-C3N4-based catalysts and apply it into water pollution control, energy conversion and other fields. (Fig.1) For instance, using chitin, a marine biomass that had been widely found in nature, as a Carbon Matrix Precursor for fabrication of derived carbon/g-C3Nheterojunction through thermal polymerization can improve the absorption of visible light, promote carrier separation and greatly enhance the ability of degrading dyes (Fig.2a) (Appl. Surf. Sci., 2020, 527, 146737). Proceeding to the next step, the research group have systematically summarized the structure of multidimensional(0D-3D) functional nanocarbon material and g-C3Nconstructing heterojunction and the influence mechanism on the property of g-C3N4 (Fig.2b) (Green Energy Environ., 2021, 6, 823). In order to further enhance the promotion effect of heterojunctions, the research group have integrated the dual advantages of ionic modification and heterojunction, developed the structure of potassium ion decorated 1D/2D homojunction, which showed considerable potential in the treatment of refractory antibiotic wastewater(Fig.2c) (Appl. Surf. Sci., 2022, 575, 151695).


Fig. 2(a) One-pot construction of chitin-derived carbon/g-C3Nheterojunction by thermal polymerization

(b) Schematic diagram of heterojunction structure constructed by multidimensional(0D-3D) functional nanocarbon material

(c) Synthesis mechanism of fabrication of potassium ion decorated 1D/2D homojunction structure

To achieve a breakthrough in the modification strategy, based on the long-term accumulation of the ionic liquid microenvironment and it’s process strengthening mechanism, the research group proposed the concept of polymeric ionic liquid as an “electronic reservoir”, developed the hollow polymeric ionic liquid spheres with layer gradients of electron structure (PIL-x), and used it for modified g-C3N4. The anions and cations can be used to regulate the thickness of different electron transport reserve behavior of the system, and obtain a hydrogen-producing catalyst with excellent performance (Fig. 3) (Chem. Eng. J., 2022, 135625). This work wides the application of polymerized ionic liquids, provides a novel idea for the modification of g-C3N and other photocatalysts, and opens a significant sight to develop effective photocatalyst materials.


Fig. 3 (a) Schematic diagram of the construction of PIL- x /g-C3N4

(b) Comparison of H2 evolution performance of composite systems

Paper details: Bin He#, Shengxin Chen#, Yuandong Cui, Xinyan Chen, Yu Lei, Jian Sun*. Hollow Polymeric Ionic Liquid Spheres with Hierarchical Electron Distribution: A Novel Composite of g-C3N4 for Visible Light Photocatalytic Water Splitting Enhancement, doi:

Paper link:

The research group profile attached:

Focusing on the needs of the national “double carbon” and sustainable development strategy, the Green Biomanufacturing Research Group pays attention to the cross-integration of chemistry, biology, chemical industry materials and other disciplinaries. It carries out basic and applied research on functionalized ionic liquids, including the design of functionalized ionic liquids and microenvironment, the synthesis of bio-based chemicals and materials, the coupling of processes such as light, electricity, heat and biology, and the construction of biomimetic functional devices. Professor Sun Jian is the leader of the research group. He is also a tutor for PHD students, a member of the National High-level Young Talents Program, the deputy director of the Technical Committee of the China Cellulose Industry Association, a member of the lonic Liquid Committee of the Chinese Chemical Industry Association, and a member of the Pharmaceutical and Biological Membrane Technical Committee of the China Membrane Industry Association. Moreover, Professor Sun has been engaged in the research of green processes based on ionic liquids and published more than 70 academic papers in Chem. Soc. Rev., Energy Environ. Sci., Chem. Eng. J. and other internationally renowned journals. He has being authorized for 21 Chinese invention patents, 3 American patents and 1Japanese patent, presiding over and participating in more than 10 projects such as the National High-level Young Talents Program and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Now he is serving as the youth director of Energy Environ. Mater., Chinese J. Chem. Eng., Green Chem. Eng. and other journals. The Green Biomanufacturing Research Group welcomes students with relevant majors or backgrounds to apply for the examination, recruiting postdoctoral fellows and researchers in long-term at the same time.