Growth And Characterization of ZnO Nanostructures for Device Applications : Field Emission, Memristor And Gas Sensors
Singh, Nagendra Pratap
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Zinc oxide (ZnO) is perhaps one of the most widely studied material in the last two decades. It has received so much of attention because of its incredible potential for wide ranging applications. ZnO is a wide band gap semiconductor (Eg = 3.37 eV at 300 K) with a rather large excitonic binding energy (~60 meV). This combination of properties makes it an ideal choice for several optoelectronic devices that can easily work at room temperature. ZnO is a truly multifunctional material possessing several desirable electrical, optical, optoelectronic, and piezoelectric properties. In addition, it is highly amenable to production of various kinds of nanostructures such as nanorods, nanotubes, nanoribbons, nanoneedles, etc., which makes it even more desirable for nanoscale devices. Examples of ZnO based nanodevices could include photodiodes, photodetectors, nano-lasers, field-emission devices and memristors. In order to make such devices, one could need device quality nanostructures that must be reproducible and cost effective. Naturally, one has to look for a synthesis process that has great controls and is relatively inexpensive. The study provided here shows that among the various methods available for ZnO synthesis, the microwave-assisted chemical synthesis offers outstanding advantages in terms of rapid growth of nanostructures, economical use of energy and excellent controls of process parameters. In order to produce device quality ZnO nanostructures using microwave-assisted synthesis, one has to study the effect of various process parameters and optimise them for the desired growth. Therefore, in the current study, first, a systematic study was undertaken to synthesize ZnO nanostructures both in a aqueous and non-aqueous medium and their characterization was carried out in order to understand the effect of microwave power, time of irradiation, pressure, solvent and salt concentration, etc. The goal was to develop synthesis protocols for various kinds of nanostructures that could guarantee reproducibility, good yield, and device quality structures. This study has led to successful growth of ZnO nanostructures on various substrates, vertically aligned ZnO nanorods and templated arrays of desired structures, all with outstanding properties of the structures as confirmed by XRD, MicroRaman, photoluminescence, cathodoluminescence, FESEM, TEM, PFM studies and pole figure analysis. Piezoelectric force microscopy (PFM) and physical property measurement system (PPMS, Quantum Design), have been used to study the multifunctional properties of ZnO nanostructures. The PFM is a powerful technique to measure the local piezoelectric coefficient of nanostructures and nanoscale thin films. PFM works on the converse piezoelectric effect in which electric potential is applied and mechanical strain is measured using a cantilever deflection. The PFM (Brucker’s AFM dimension Scan Assist) was used to characterize individual ZnO nanorods. Extensive studies were carried out with PFM measurements and it was observed that the nanorods consistently showed high piezoelectric coupling coefficients (d33~50-154 pm/V). It was also found that the variation in d33 depended on morphology and size of nanostructure. The multifunctional properties were observed in small ZnO nanocrystals (NCs). Such high values of piezoelectric coupling coefficients open the door for novel ZnO based nanoscale sensors and actuators. The synthesized ZnO nanostructures were further optimized and characterized keeping in view three device applications namely Field emission, Memristors and Gas Sensors. The fabrication and characterization of these three devices with ZnO nanostructure was carried out using electron beam lithography and direct laser writing micromachining. Device fabrication using lithography involved several steps such as substrate cleaning, photoresist spin coating, pre-baking, post-baking, pattern writing, developing, sputtering/deposition of material for lift-off, ZnO growth, and overlay lithography. For field emission devices, high quality, well aligned, c-axis oriented ZnO nano-needles were grown on sputter coated Ti/Pt (20nm/100nm) on SiO2/Si substrate by rapid microwave-assisted method in aqueous medium. The diameter of the tip was found to be 1~2 nm and the length of the rod was approximately 3~5μm. For a particular batch the tip size, morphology, and lengths were found to be the same and highly repeatable. Pole figure analysis revealed that nanorods were highly oriented towards <002> direction. Field-emission measurements using the ZnO nanoneedles arrays as cathode showed very low turn-on electric field of 0.9 V/μm and a very high field enhancement factor ~ 20200. Such a high emission current density, low turn-on electric field, and high field enhancement factor are attributed to the high aspect ratio, narrow tip size, high quality and single crystallinity of the nanoneedles. The high emission current density, high stability, low threshold electric field (0.95 V/μm) and low turn-on field make the ZnO nanoneedle arrays one of the ideal candidates for field-emission displays and field emission sensors. In the suitability of ZnO nanostructures for memristor application it was found that the single crystalline ZnO nanorods were not suitable as they did not show memristive behaviour but the ZnO nanorods with native defects exhibited considerable memristive behaviour. Therefore the microwave-assisted grown ZnO nanorods with defects were used to fabricate memristive devices. Single and multiple ZnO nanorods based memristors were fabricated using electron beam lithography. These devices were characterized electrically by measuring the hysteresis in the I/V characteristics. A high degree of repeatability has been established in terms of growth, device fabrication, and measurements. The switching in single nanorod based devices was found to have “ON-to- OFF” resistance ratio of approximately 104 and current switching ratio (ION/IOFF) of 106. Gas sensing based on electrical resistance change depends on absorption and desorption rate of gases on the analyte which is governed by surface properties, morphologies and activation energy. Therefore, various morphologies of nanostructure were grown for gas sensing application. Through experimentation, the emphasis shifted to c-axis oriented ZnO nanostructures on SiO2 substrate for gas sensing. The c-axis orientation of ZnO nanostructures was preferred mainly due to its huge surface area. The measurements showed that the c-axis oriented ZnO nanorods were excellent hydrogen sensors, able to detect H2 as low concentration as 2 ppm, even when the sensing temperature is as low as 200 ˚C. However, oxygen sensing was achieved at a higher temperature (300 ˚C). Thus, the study undertaken in this thesis presents a microwave based rapid and economical method for synthesizing high quality, device grade ZnO nanostructures, their extensive characterization that shows the multifunctional properties of these structures, and there examples of varied device applications of the synthesized nanostructures as field emitters, memristors, and gas sensors.