BackgroundAzo dyes represent the most commonly used group of dyes in the textile industry. These organic dyes are mainly resistant to biodegradation and may exhibit toxic and carcinogenic properties. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of doping zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles (NPs) with transition metals (silver, manganese, and copper) on the photocatalytic efficiency of ZnO NPs in the removal of Direct Blue 15 dye from aqueous environments under ultraviolet (UV) radiation and visible light irradiation.MethodsOne or two metals were used for doping the NPs. In total, seven types of undoped and transition metal-doped NPs were synthesized using the thermal solvent method with ZnO precursors and transition metal salts. The characteristics of the synthesized NPs were determined based on the scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX), X-ray diffraction (XRD), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering (DLS), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and zeta potential measurements.ResultsThe produced ZnO NPs did not exhibit any particular photocatalytic activities under UV radiation and visible light irradiation. The highest removal efficiency under UV radiation was about 74% in the presence of silver-doped ZnO NPs, while the maximum efficiency under visible light was 70% in the presence of copper-doped ZnO NPs. The lowest removal efficiency was related to pure ZnO, which was 18.4% and 14.6% under UV and visible light irradiation, respectively. Although the efficiency of dye removal under visible light was not high compared to UV radiation, this efficiency was noteworthy in terms of both practical and economic aspects since it was achieved without the presence of ultraviolet radiation.ConclusionsThe synthesis of transition metal-doped ZnO nanophotocatalysts (with one or two metals) under UV radiation or visible light irradiation could be used as an efficient and promising technology for the photocatalytic removal of Direct Blue 15 dye from aqueous environments.