Illumination of TiO 2 thin films with UV light is known to induce the transformation of the surface of this material from partially hydrophobic into fully hydrophilic. The present work shows that this transformation is accompanied by other effects that may be used to control the synthesis of composite materials. For this purpose, TiO 2 and Ta 2O 5 transparent thin films with a columnar structure and open pores were prepared by electron evaporation at glancing angles. Transparent TiO 2 thin films with micropores (i.e., pores smaller than 2 nm) prepared by plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) were also used. All these films became hydrophilic upon UV illumination. Rhodamine 6G and Rhodamine 800 dyes were irreversibly adsorbed within the columns of the TiO 2 and Ta 2O 5 thin films by immersion into a water solution of these molecules. Isolated and aggregated molecules of these two dyes were detected by visible absorption spectroscopy. The infiltration adsorption efficiency was directly correlated with the acidity of the medium, increasing at basic pHs as expected from simple considerations based on the concepts of the point of zero charge (PZC) in colloidal oxides. The infiltration experiments were repeated with columnar TiO 2 and Ta 2O 5 thin films that were subjected to preillumination with UV light. It was found that this treatment produced a modification in the type (isolated or aggregated) and amount of dye molecules incorporated into the pores. Moreover, the selective adsorption of a given dye in preilluminated areas of the films permitted the lithographic coloring of the films. Preillumination also controls the UV induced deposition of silver on the surface of the microporous TiO 2 thin films. It was found that the size distribution of the formed silver nanoparticles was dependent on the preillumination treatment and that a well-resolved surface plasmon resonance at around 500 nm was only monitored in the preilluminated films. A model is proposed to account for the effects induced by UV preillumination on the TiO 2 and Ta 2O 5 oxide surfaces. The possibilities of this type of light treatment for the tailored synthesis of nanocomposite thin films (i.e., dye-oxide, metal nanoparticles-oxide) are highlighted.
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