In this work we report for the first time a comparative study of the physical, electronic and photocatalytic properties of all four polymorphs of nanostructured iron oxyhydroxides. In brief, we synthesized all four polymorphs of nanostructured iron oxyhydroxides, namely; goethite (α-FeOOH), akaganeite (β-FeOOH), lepidocrocite (ɣ-FeOOH), and feroxyhyte (δ-FeOOH) and fully characterized them by X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, UV-Visible spectrophotometry, BET measurements and X-ray photoemission spectroscopy. The relationship between these iron oxyhydroxide polymorphs and their photocatalytic properties were explored by examining the extent of methylene blue (MB) degradation by each polymorph under visible light irradiation. Feroxyhyte exhibited the best photocatalytic properties and degraded 85% of the MB dye in five hours. In comparison, goethite, akaganeite and lepidocrocite degraded only 40%, 35% and 30% of the MB in five hours, respectively. In order to understand this trend, the surface area, particle size and shape, and electronic band properties were systematically studied and discussed. It was found that the rate of MB degradation relates mainly to the surface area of the FeOOH polymorphs more than any other factor. We are deeply indebted to Chenxi Qian for his graphical representation of the artscience encapsulated in our paper.
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