ZnO Nanorods via Spray Deposition of Solutions Containing Zinc Chloride and Thiocarbamide
© to the authors 2007
Received: 16 May 2007
Accepted: 12 June 2007
Published: 19 July 2007
In this work we present the results on formation of ZnO nanorods prepared by spray of aqueous solutions containing ZnCl2and thiocarbamide (tu) at different molar ratios. It has been observed that addition of thiocarbamide into the spray solution has great impact on the size, shape and phase composition of the ZnO crystals. Obtained layers were characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) equipped with energy selected backscattered electron detection system (ESB), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and photoluminescence spectroscopy (PL). Small addition of thiocarbamide into ZnCl2solution (ZnCl2:tu = 1:0.25) supports development of significantly thinner ZnO nanorods with higher aspect ratio compared to those obtained from ZnCl2solution. Diameter of ZnO rods decreases from 270 to 100 nm and aspect ratio increases from ∼2.5 to 12 spraying ZnCl2and ZnCl2:tu solutions, respectively. According to XRD, well crystallized (002) orientated pure wurtzite ZnO crystals have been formed. However, tiny ‘spot’—like formations of ZnS were detected on the side planes of hexagonal rods prepared from the thiocarbamide containing solutions. Being adsorbed on the side facets of the crystals ZnS inhibits width growth and promotes longitudinalc-axis growth.
One-dimensional zinc oxide (ZnO) nanostructures have been the subject of intense research in the past few years due to their unique properties and thus potential wide-ranging applications in a variety of fields such as solar cells [1–3], sensors [4, 5], short-wavelength light emitting and field effect devices [6, 7], Schottky diodes [8, 9], and coating materials [10, 11]. Controlling the size and shape of nanocrystalline materials is a crucial issue in nanoscience research. The ordered growth and high surface area of one-dimensional ZnO nanorods are desirable as it would provide significant enhancement of the devices efficient functioning.
Several techniques have been developed for the fabrication of the 1D nanostructures, including metal organic chemical vapor [12, 13], pulsed laser [14, 15], electrochemical deposition techniques [16, 17], vapor–liquid–solid [18, 19] and wet chemical methods [20–22].
Chemical spray pyrolysis has the advantage over the other methods being a less time and expenses consumable, catalyst and template free method to prepare ZnO nanostructures.
In our previous works [23–25] we have demonstrated the possibility to synthesize high quality c-axis orientated ZnO rods by a simple spray pyrolysis deposition method using zinc chloride aqueous solutions as a single precursor. It was found that size, shape and aspect ratio of ZnO nanostructures prepared by spray pyrolysis strongly depend on the ZnCl2 concentration, deposition time, growth temperature and the substrate properties. In solution systems of wet-growth methods, the morphology of grown ZnO crystals has been controlled by the reaction conditions and the presence of various additives. In order to obtain the desired crystals size, shape and aspect ratios of final ZnO product by solution-based methods, so-called surfactant or capping molecules are added to the solution. They can manipulate the growth kinetics and determine the final morphologies being adsorbed to the certain crystal planes. For instance, hexamine  and oleic acid  inhibit  and promotes the  growth resulting in thinner and high-aspect ratio rods. Additives such as sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) , triethanolamine (TEA) , citric acid  retard the growth along the c-axis direction resulting in a disk-like structures or platy forms.
In this study, we demonstrate the influence of thiocarbamide addition to the zinc chloride solution on development of ZnO rods, their dimensions, phase composition, morphological, structural and photoluminescence (PL) properties. The formation chemistry and growth mechanism of the ZnO nanorods is proposed. To our best knowledge this is the first report on preparation of ZnO nanorods from thiourea and zinc chloride solution system.
ZnO nanorods were deposited using pneumatic spray pyrolysis technique. Spray aqueous solution was prepared by mixing of ZnCl2and thiocarbamide (tu) at the molar ratios (Zn:tu) of 1:0 (ZnCl2solution without tu), 1:0.05, 1:0.1, 1:0.25 and 1:0.5. The ZnCl2concentration in solutions was adjusted to 0.1 and 0.05 mol/L. The resultant solution in amount of 50 mL was pulverized onto the SnO2covered glass and soda-lime bare glass substrates mounted on a soldered tin bath.
The deposition temperature (TS, temperature at substrate surface) was kept at 520 °C and controlled through the tin bath temperature using an electronic temperature controller. The solution flow rate and gas pressure were kept constant at 2.5 mL/min and 8 L/min, respectively; air was used as the carrier gas supplied by filter equipped oil-free compressor.
The structural characterization of deposited films structures was carried out on Bruker AXS D5005 diffractometer (monochromatic Cu Kα radiation, λ = 1.54056 Å) in 2θ range 20–60 deg with the step of 0.04 deg and counting time 2 s/step. The reflections were identified by JCPDS files.
The surface morphology and film cross-section micrographs were taken by a high-resolution scanning electron microscope ZEISS Ultra 55 equipped with an Energy Backscattered electron (ESB) detector to determine the elemental composition difference. For the room-temperature photoluminescence measurements, a He–Cd laser with a wavelength of 325 nm was used for excitation. The PL spectra were taken with a SPM-2 grating monocromator (f = 0.4 m) and the signal was detected with a photomultiplier tube. The measurements were made in the 310–620 nm range.
Results and Discussion
Effect of Thiocarbamide on Morphology of ZnO Nanorods
In our previous work  we have observed that in order to grow well-aligned ZnO nanorods on SnO2, it is essential to use the precursor concentration in solutions below than 0.1 mol/L. Since the deposition of 0.1 mol/L solutions resulted in fat ZnO crystals with low aspect ratio.
The average diameters, lengths and aspect ratios of the sprayed ZnO nanorods deposited from solutions without and with thiourea at two different concentrations of ZnCl2—0.05 mol/L and 0.1 mol/L
Aspect ratio (L/D)
C = 0.05
C = 0.1
As it could be seen from Table 1, thiocarbamide addition generally leads to the formation of thinner rods with higher aspect ratio compared to those deposited from ZnCl2 solution. However, amount of thiocarbamide in solution is extremely important factor which determines the final rods dimensions. For instance, too low (Zn:tu = 1:0.05) or too high (Zn:tu = 1:0.5) amount of added thiourea results in thicker and low aspect ratio rods. The molar ratio of Zn:tu = 1:0.25 seems to be optimal in order to grow highest aspect ratio nanorods.
Structural Properties and Phase Composition of ZnO Layers
Weak reflection at 2θ of 28.5°, detected in the XRD pattern, could be attributed to the (111) reflection of ZnS sphalerite phase. As it has been reported [33, 34], the ZnCl2 and thiourea in an aqueous solution yield the complex compound—dichlorobis(thiourea)zinc with molecular formula Zn(tu)2Cl2,which decomposes with formation of zinc sulfide at temperatures above 300 °C [33, 34].
Development of ZnO Nanorods in Initial Stages of Growth: Growth Mechanism
To understand the growth mechanism of ZnO nanorods obtained with and without thiocarbamide addition into solution, their morphologies in the initial growth stages were recorded by SEM.
It is known that in some crystallization processes the growth rate of a crystal facet can be inhibited by the addition of an impurity strongly adsorbing onto the growth front and thereby ‘poisons’ the incorporation of new molecules into that facet .
The ZnS particles, issued from the zinc–thiocarbamide complex decomposition being adsorbed onto the freshly formed ZnO side facets retard the crystal growth to the width thus promoting the longitudinal, c-axis growth (see Fig. 7).
Similar growth mechanism preventing the “width” growth and facilitating the c-axis growth has been observed for ZnO nanorod formation in chemical bath deposition using hexamine and oleic acid additives [26, 27].
In order to control whether the carbamide (CO (NH2)2), which molecular structure is very similar to thiocarbamide (CS (NH2)2), influences the ZnO crystals formation, we prepared some samples using urea instead of thiourea at the molar ratio of Zn to urea = 1:0.25. As a result, fat crystals have been formed. This is the next argument that the ZnS pieces originated from thiourea addition affect the development of ZnO crystals.
ZnO rods deposited from ZnCl2 solution exhibits dominating strong and sharp and near band edge (NBE) emission band centred at 3.25 eV (382 nm). According to the literature data, NBE or UV-emission typically results from the recombination of free or bound exciton [37, 38] indicating the high crystal quality of the material. The green emission band is absent in the spectrum of this sample. PL spectrum of the samples prepared from the solutions containing thiocarbamide shows decreased intensity of the UV-emission band and appearance of green-emission band at app. 2.4 eV (517 nm). The green emission band originates from the recombination of photo-generated hole with a singly ionized defect, such as oxygen vacancy [39, 40].
According to some reports [4, 41, 43, 43] a higher intensity of the green emission observed from thinner nanorods is due to their higher surface-to-volume ratio. Taking into account that ZnO nanorods prepared with thiocarbamide additive contain some ZnS phase, the appearance of green-emission band and decreased intensity of the NBE band could be related to this impurity phase.
In conclusion, ZnO nanorods have successfully been synthesized via a simple and cost-effective spray pyrolysis route. Small addition of thiocarbamide into ZnCl2solution (ZnCl2:tu = 1:0.25) supports development of significantly thinner ZnO nanorods with higher aspect ratio compared to those obtained from only ZnCl2solution. The diameter of ZnO rods decreases from 270 to 100 nm and aspect ratio increases from ∼2.5 to 12 spraying ZnCl2and ZnCl2:tu solutions, respectively. Structural analyses showed that the nanorods arec-axis orientated ZnO wurzite crystals. ZnS particles, issued from the zinc–thiocarbamide complex decomposition being adsorbed onto the freshly formed ZnO side facets, retard the crystal growth to the width thus promoting the longitudinal,c-axis growth. As a result, the intensity of NBE emission decreases and green-emission band appears in the room-temperature PL spectra of ZnO nanorod samples prepared by spraying of thiocarbamide containing solutions.
This work is supported by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Science, Estonian Science Fundation Grant No. 6954 and Estonian Doctoral School of Materials Science and Technology. Authors would like to thank M. Grossberg for PL measurements.
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