Photocatalytic removal of estrogenic compounds (ECs), 17β-estradiol (E2), and 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) were assessed using a TiO-ZnO nanocomposite (NC) over a range of initial EC concentration (C; 10 mg/L – 0.05 mg/L). Photocatalytic removal was evaluated under UV and visible irradiation using 10 mg/L NC over 240 min duration. After 240 min, analysis using GCxGC TOF MS revealed 100% transformation at C ≤ 1 mg/L and ≥25% transformation at C ≤ 10 mg/L under visible irradiation. Degradation was accompanied by breakdown of the fused ring structure of E2, generating smaller molecular weight by-products which were subsequently mineralized as revealed through TOC removal. With UV photocatalysis, ~30% and ~20% mineralization was attained for E2 and EE2, respectively, for C of 10 mg/L. Under visible irradiation, ~25% and ~10% mineralization was achieved for E2 and EE2, respectively. Estrogenicity variation was estimated using the E-screen assay conducted with estrogen receptor-positive MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Complete removal of estrogenicity of ECs was confirmed after 240 min of photocatalysis under UV and visible irradiation. FTIR spectroscopy-based analysis of the NC after E2 photocatalysis revealed the presence of sorbed organics. Desorption, followed by GC × GC TOF-MS analysis revealed these organics as by-products of photocatalysis. Desorption of sorbed organics followed by recalcination at 600 °C for 1 h regenerated the active sites on the NC, enabling its efficient reuse for 3 cycles under visible irradiation without loss in activity.
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