Synthesis and integration of one-dimensional nanostructures for chemical gas sensing applications
Parthangal, Prahalad Madhavan
Zachariah, Michael R
The need for improved measurement technology for the detection and monitoring of gases has increased tremendously for maintenance of domestic and industrial health and safety, environmental surveys, national security, food-processing, medical diagnostics and various other industrial applications. Among the several varieties of gas sensors available in the market, solid-state sensors are the most popular owing to their excellent sensitivity, ruggedness, versatility and low cost. Semiconducting metal oxides such as tin oxide (SnO2), zinc oxide (ZnO), and tungsten oxide (WO3) are routinely employed as active materials in these sensors. Since their performance is directly linked to the exposed surface area of the sensing material, one-dimensional nanostructures possessing very high surface to volume ratios are attractive candidates for designing the next generation of sensors. Such nano-sensors also enable miniaturization thereby reducing power consumption. The key to achieve success in one-dimensional nanotechnologies lies in assembly. While synthesis techniques and capabilities continue to expand rapidly, progress in controlled assembly has been sluggish due to numerous technical challenges. In this doctoral thesis work, synthesis and characterization of various one-dimensional nanostructures including nanotubes of SnO2, and nanowires of WO3 and ZnO, as well as their direct integration into miniature sensor platforms called microhotplates have been demonstrated. The key highlights of this research include devising elegant strategies for growing metal oxide nanotubes using carbon nanotubes as templates, substantially reducing process temperatures to enable growth of WO3 nanowires on microhotplates, and successfully fabricating a ZnO nanowire array based sensor using a hybrid nanowire-nanoparticle assembly approach. In every process, the gas-sensing properties of one-dimensional nanostructures were observed to be far superior in comparison with thin films of the same material. Essentially, we have formulated simple processes for improving current thin film sensors as well as a means of incorporating nanostructures directly into miniature sensing devices. Apart from gas sensing applications, the approaches described in this work are suitable for designing future nanoelectronic devices such as gas-ionization, capacitive and calorimetric sensors, miniature sensor arrays for electronic nose applications, field emitters, as well as photonic devices such as nanoscale LEDs and lasers.