Thin Film Semiconducting Metal Oxides By Nebulized Spray Pyrolysis And MOCVD, For Gas-Sensing Applications
The atmosphere we live in contains various kinds of chemical species, natural and artificial, some of which are vital to our life, while many others are more or less harmful. The vital gases like oxygen, humidity have to be kept at adequate levels in the living atmosphere, whereas the hazardous and toxic gases like hydrocarbons, H2, volatile organic compounds, CO2, CO, NOx, SO2, NH3, O3 etc should be controlled to be under the designated levels. The measurement technology necessary for monitoring these gases has emerged, particularly as organic fuels and other chemicals have become essential in domestic and industrial life. In addition to other applications, environmental pollution monitoring and control has become a fundamental need in the recent years. Therefore, there has been an extensive effort to develop high-performance chemical sensors of small size, rugged construction, light weight, true portability, and with better sensing characteristics such as high sensitivity, fast response and recovery times, low drift, and high degree of specificity. Among the various types of gas sensors studied, solid state gas sensors based on semiconducting metal oxides are well established, due to their advantages over the other types, and hence cover a wide range of applications. However, the widespread application of these sensors has been hindered by limited sensitivity and selectivity. Various strategies have been employed in order to improved the performance parameters of these sensors. This thesis work has two major investigations, which form two parts of the thesis. The first part of this thesis describes the efforts to improve the sensing behaviour of one of the extensively studied metal oxide gas sensors, namely, ZnO, through a novel, ultrasonic-nebulised spray pyrolyis synthesis method, employing an aqueous combustion mixture (NSPACM). The second part of the thesis deals with the ideal of gas detection by optical means through the reversible phase transformation between V2O5 and V6O13 deposited by metalorganic chemical vapor deposition(MOCVD). The introductory chapter I deals with basics of chemical sensors and the characteristic sensing parameters. Different types of gas sensors based on the phenomena employed for sensing are discussed, with an emphasis on semiconducting metal oxide gas sensors. The importance of material selection for solid state gas sensors, depending on the purpose, location, and conditions of operation are discussed, supporting the assertion that semiconducting metal oxides are better suited to fulfill all the requirements of modern gas sensors. Some of the effective methods to improve performance parameters including the influence of grain size, microstructure, and surface doping are described., followed by the motivation of the present thesis. The part I of the thesis is based on the resistive semiconducting metal oxide, where the system investigated was ZnO. Part one comprises Chapters 2, 3 and 4. In Chapter 2, a brief introduction to the material properties of ZnO, followed by various synthesis techniques are discussed. An overview of spray pyrolysis and combustion synthesis is followed by the details of the method employed in the present study, namely NSPACM, which is based on the above two methods, for the formation of ZnO films. A detailed description of the film deposition system built in house is presented, followed by the deposition procedure and the parameters used. Thermal study of the combustion mixture and non-combustion precursor shows the importance of the fuel, along with oxidizer, in forming the film. The films formed using combustion mixture are found to be polycrystalline, whereas films formed without combustion were found to have preferred crystallographic orientation even on an amorphous substrate, which is explained on the basis of minimization of surface energy. The observed unique microstructure with fine crystallite size and porous morphology is attributed to the combustion method employed, which is interesting from the point of view of gas sensing. Chapter 3 concerns the gas sensing study of these ZnO films. The design of the home made gas sensing system is explained in detail. The study of electrode characteristics is followed by the important steps in gas sensing measurements. ZnO gas sensors were mainly studied for their selectivity between aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons. The results show two regions of temperature where the sensitivity peaks for aliphatic hydrocarbons, whereas aromatic hydrocarbons show a single sensitive region. This observation can pave the way for imparting selectivity. Possible reasons for the observed behavior are mentioned. Chapter 4 describes the chemical and physical modifications done to ZnO thin films by doping with catalysts, and through the use of x-y translational stage for large-area deposition.. Homogenous distribution of catalysts achieved by the NSPACM synthesis procedure, determined by the x-ray elemental mapping, is discussed. The addition of catalysts improved the sensing both because of catalytic effects and by promoting preferred crystallographic orientation, with Ni addition showing the better effects. The use of the x-y stage in producing the films with high orientation, which improved the gas sensing behavior, is explained. Part II of the thesis comprises Chapters 5,6 and 7, and describes a detailed study of V2O5 and V6O13 thin films deposited by MOCVD for optical sensing of chemical species. In Chapter 5, a brief introduction to chemical vapor deposition is given, followed by the importance of the characteristics of CVD precursors – in particular, the importance of their thermal behavior in film formation. This is followed by the importance of vapor pressure and partial pressure studies in the MOCVD of oxides of a multivalent metal such as vanadium. Various techniques of measuring vapor pressure are listed, followed by the details of the method used in the present study employing rising temperature thermogravimetry, based on the Langmuir equation. Thermogravimetric analysis performed, both at atmospheric as well as at low pressure, using commercial and home made apparatus, respectively is discussed. A detailed description of the home made setup is also presented. Chapter 6 describes the application of the vapor pressure and partial pressure studies to the deposition of films using MOCVD. Here, a detailed description of the vanadium oxide phase diagram and the stability of various phases is presented, which points the importance of precise parameter control during the deposition to obtain pure phases. The details of the CVD setup, followed by the procedure and parameters of deposition, are presented. The films deposited at various deposition temperatures, analyzed using XRD and SEM, are discussed. The effect of temperature on the growth is explained. The effect of vapor pressure is studied by varying the precursor vaporizer temperature, with a growth temperature maintained invariant. The influence of the amount of precursor on film growth, with a particular crystalline orientation and phase content, is explained followed by the description of the deposition of pure phases of V2O5 and V6O13 through the optimization of CVD parameters. Chapter 7 deals with the optical study of the films deposited by the above method. Here, the importance of two phases of vanadium oxide, V2O5 and V6O13, to the proposed gas sensing action, is presented. Their structural similarity in terms of polyhedral arrangement in the ab plane can be the basis of a reversible phase change. The difference in the optical transmittance in two phases forms the basis for the optical method for chemical sensing. The details of the laser-based optical sensing setup, its, design and the detection method, are explained. Studies on hydrocarbon sensing with vanadium, pentoxide films are also presented. The novelty in using reversible chemical transformation of a material system for detection of reducing and oxidizing gases in the ambient gases is discussed. Chapter 8 provides a summary of the present thesis, together with the main conclusions. The work reported in this thesis has been carried out by the candidate as part of the Ph.d training programme. She hopes that this would constitute a worthwhile contribution towards the understanding and subsequent application of ZnO and oxides of vanadium(V2O5 and V6O13) as novel gas sensors which will be useful for environmental protection, as well as for safety in industrial an domestic sectors.