Zinc Oxide (ZnO) nanowires with hexagonal structure were successfully synthesized by chemical bath deposition technique. The obtained nanowires were characterized by scanning electron microscope (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDX) and spectrophotometer. The SEM micrographs revealed the morphology of ZnO nanowires with diameter between 170.3 and 481nm and showed that the pH of the bath solution, 8.1 is the optimized value to form ZnO nanowires with hexagonal shape. The XRD pattern of the samples revealed that ZnO nanowire has a hexagonal crystallite structure and further showed that the crystallite size supported by Scherrer’s equation increase with increasing annealing temperature (0.536 nm, 0.541nm, 0.557 nm at 1000C, 1500C and 2000C) respectively. The EDX analysis revealed the elemental compositions of samples and confirmed the presence of Zn and O. The results of the optical analysis showed that ZnO nanowire has high absorbance in the ultraviolet and infrared regions with high transmittance in the visible region. The results further revealed that the absorbance of the nanowire increase with increasing annealing temperature. Its high absorbance in the ultraviolet region suggest that it can be use as solar harvester for trapping solar energy for photovoltaic panel which is capable of converting sunlight radiation directly to electricity for commercial or industrial purpose.
1.1 Background of the Research
Nanoscience evolution and the advent of nanowire fabrication marked a new epoch in optoelectronics 1. Characteristic investigation for achieving efficient light absorption, charge separation transport and collection had culminated in the synthesis of both organic and inorganic semiconductor nanowires 2-3. The d-block transition elements of the periodic table are all metals of economic importance. Zinc, which is a group II element, finds numerous potential applications, such as smart windows, solar thermal absorber, optical memories and photoelectrocatalysis 4-5.
Nowadays, the products of semiconductor industry are spread all over the world and deeply penetrate into the daily life of humans. The starting point of semiconductor industry was the invention of the first semiconductor transistor in 1947.3 Since then, the semiconductor industry has kept growing enormously. In the 1949’s, the information age of humans was started on the basis of the stepwise appearance of quartz optical fiber, group III-V compound semiconductors and gallium arsenide (GaAs) lasers. During the development of the information age, silicon (Si) keeps the dominant place on the commercial market, which is used to fabricate the discrete devices and integrated circuits for computing, data storage and communication. Since Si has an indirect band-gap which is not suitable for optoelectronic devices such as light emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes, GaAs with direct band-gap stands out and fills the blank for this application. As the development of information technologies continued, the requirement of ultraviolet (UV)/blue light emitter applications became stronger and stronger which is beyond the limits of GaAs. Therefore, the wide band-gap semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) and zinc oxide (ZnO), i.e. the third generation semiconductors, come forth and turn into the research focus in the field of semiconductor.
ZnO is a typical II-VI semiconductor material with a wide band-gap of 3.37 eV at room temperature. Although its band-gap value is closer to GaN (3.44eV), its exciton binding energy is as high as 39eV, which is much higher than that of GaN (25eV). Therefore, theoretically, we can harvest high efficient UV exciton emission and laser at room temperature, which will strongly prompt the applications of UV laser in the fields of benthal detection, communication and optical memory with magnitude enhancement in the performance. Moreover, the melting point of ZnO is 19540C, which determines its high thermal and chemical stability. Again, ZnO owns a huge potentially commercial value due to its cheaper price, abundant resources in nature, environmentally friendly, simple fabrication processes and so on. Therefore, ZnO has turned into a new hot focus in the field of short-wavelength laser and optoelectronic devices in succession to GaN in the past decade.
It is believed by many researchers that ZnO is a more prospective candidate for the next generation of light emitters for solid state lighting applications than GaN, even though the GaN-based LEDs have been commercialised and currently dominated the light emission applications in UV/blue wavelength range. This is because ZnO has several advantages compared to GaN. The two outstanding factors are;
1. The exciton binding energy of ~39eV at room temperature is much higher than that of GaN (~25eV), which can enhance the luminescence efficiency of ZnO based light emission devices at room temperature, and lower the threshold for lasing by optical pumping. 6-7
2. The growth of high quality single crystal substrates is easier and of lower cost than GaN.6-7
Increasingly interesting properties and potential applications of ZnO have been discovered. One of the most attractive aspects is that it is relatively simple for ZnO to form various nanostructures including highly ordered nanowire arrays, tower-like structures, nanorods, nanobelts, nanosprings and nanorings 8. Due to the special physical and chemical properties derived from the nanostructures, ZnO has been found to be promising in many other applications, such as sensing 9-10, catalysis 11-12, photovoltaics 13 and nano-generators 14-16, just to mention but a few.
In order to utilize the applications of nanostructure materials, it usually requires that the crystalline morphology, orientation and surface architecture of nanostructures can be well controlled during the preparation processes. For ZnO nanostructures, although different fabrication methods such as vapor-phase transport 17, pulsed laser deposition 18, chemical vapor deposition and electrochemical deposition,19 have been widely used to prepare ZnO nanostructures, the complex processes, sophisticated equipments and high temperature requirement make them very hard for large-scale production for commercial application. On the contrary, aqueous chemical method is of great advantage due to much easier operation and very low growth temperature (950C) 20. ZnO nanostructures grown by this method show poor orientation and different crystalline structures due to the fact that, the optimum conditions required for the growth of these nanostructures is still grossly understudied. Hence, it is still a significant challenge to obtain controllable growth of ZnO nanostructures. It is therefore imperative to investigate the various conditions necessary for the growth of well align ZnO nanostructures.