The photochemically assisted Fenton reaction (photo-Fenton) is important because it may be particularly effective for the degradation of harmful organic compounds in the environment using solar light. The purpose of the present study was to determine the effectiveness of hydroxy Fe/Al-intercalated montmorillonites (Fe/Al-Mt) as photo-Fenton catalysts. In particular, different Fe/Al molar ratios were of interest as a means to vary catalytic activity. Intercalation was achieved via an ion-exchange method and brilliant orange X-GN was the test compound for photodegradation by hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) under visible-light irradiation (λ > 420 nm) in the presence of Fe/Al-Mt. The Fe/Al-Mt materials obtained were characterized by powder X-ray diffraction, N2 adsorption/desorption, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopic analysis, and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy. The decoloration performance of Fe/Al-Mt was investigated using different experimental parameters, including the synthesis method, the Fe/Al molar ratio of the intercalating solution, the catalyst dosage, the H2O2 dosage, and the pH. The results of photo-Fenton reaction showed that the photocatalytic activity of Fe/Al-Mt was enhanced significantly by the extent of hydroxy Al/Fe intercalation. For optimal reaction conditions, 99.92% degradation efficiency of X-GN was achieved after 140 min of reaction. To obtain further information on the visible-light-assisted photo-Fenton process, a high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry method was applied to indentify the intermediate products and a degradation pathway was proposed.

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