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The effect of substitution of iron by copper in the magnetite lattice was investigated in terms of the catalytic activity in the heterogeneous photo-Fenton process. The physicochemical properties of the FeCuO nanoparticles were characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence (WD-XRF), specific surface area measurements, field emission scanning electron microscopy (FEG-SEM), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Copper-modified magnetite showed higher catalytic activity for HO conversion to HO (estimated using 7-hydroxycoumarin), compared to pristine magnetite (FeO). Consequently, improved degradation of the anticancer drugs 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and cyclophosphamide (CP) was observed, with high efficiencies achieved using FeCuO (0.125 g L) and 15 mmol L HO, at pH 6.5, which resulted in complete degradation of 7.7 μmol L 5-FU and CP after 150 min. Low leaching of Cu and Fe demonstrated the stability of the catalyst in the Fenton process, with high catalytic activity (>90%) maintained after use in 4 cycles. The addition of radical scavengers such as methanol, tert-butanol and iodide ions indicated that surface-bonded hydroxyl radicals played a major role in the degradation of 5-FU and CP in the FeCuO/HO system. The substitution of octahedral Fe(II) sites of the magnetite lattice by Cu(II) and the partial oxidation of Cu(I) to Cu(II) and Fe(II) to Fe(III) on the catalyst surface after the Fenton reaction were confirmed by analysis of the XPS spectra.
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