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Tuning ZnO sensors reactivity towards volatile organic compounds via Ag doping and nanoparticle functionalisation

Postica, Vasile, Vahl, Alexander, Santos Carballal, David, Dankwort, Torben, Kienle, Lorenz, Hoppe, Mathias, Essadek-Cadi, Abdelaziz, De Leeuw, Nora H., Terasa, Maik-Ivo, Adelung, Rainer, Faupel, Franz and Lupan, Oleg 2019. Tuning ZnO sensors reactivity towards volatile organic compounds via Ag doping and nanoparticle functionalisation. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 11 (34) , pp. 31452-31466. 10.1021/acsami.9b07275

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Nanomaterials for highly selective and sensitive sensors towards specific gas molecules of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are most importantly for developing the new generation detector devices e.g. used as biomarkers for diseases, as well as for continuous air quality monitoring. Here, we present an innovative preparation approach for engineering sensors, which allow for full control of the dopant concentrations and the nanoparticles functionalization of columnar material surfaces. The main outcome of this powerful design concept lies in fine-tuning the reactivity of the sensor surfaces towards the VOCs of interest. Firstly, nanocolumnar and well distributed Ag-doped zinc oxide (ZnO:Ag) thin films are synthesized from chemical solution and, at a second stage, noble nanoparticles of the required size are deposited using a gas aggregation source, ensuring that no percolating paths are formed between them. Typical samples which were investigated are Ag-doped and Ag-nanoparticle (NPs)-functionalized ZnO:Ag nanocolumnar films. The highest responses to VOCs, in particular to (CH3)2CHOH, were obtained at a low operating temperature (250 ºC) for the samples synergistically enhanced with dopants and nanoparticles simultaneously. In addition, the response times and particularly the recovery times are greatly reduced for the fully modified nanocolumnar thin films for a wide range of operating temperatures. The response of the synergistically enhanced sensors to gas molecules containing certain functional groups is in excellent agreement with density functional theory calculations performed in this work too. This new fabrication strategy can underpin the next generation of advanced materials for gas sensing applications and prevent VOC levels that are hazardous to human health and can cause environmental damage.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Chemistry
Advanced Research Computing @ Cardiff (ARCCA)
Publisher: American Chemical Society
ISSN: 1944-8244
Funders: EPSRC, Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, The German Research Foundation
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 7 August 2019
Date of Acceptance: 23 July 2019
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2020 14:32

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