Microwave-assisted synthesis and processing of transparent conducting oxides and thin film fabrication by aerosol-assisted deposition
thesisposted on 05.04.2018, 15:41 by D.S.Y. (Subhashi) Jayathilake
Transparent conducting oxides (TCOs) have become an integral part of modern life through their essential role in touchscreen technology. The growing demand for cheap and superior transparent conducting layers, primarily driven by the smart phone market, has led to renewed efforts to develop novel TCOs. Currently, the most widely used material for transparent conducting applications is Sn-doped indium oxide (ITO), which has outstanding optical and electrical properties. This material is expensive though, due to the extensive use of In, and efforts to develop new low-cost transparent conducting oxides (TCO) have become increasingly important. Similarly attempts to reduce the cost of the fabrication and post-sintering steps used in making doped metal oxide thin films through innovative technologies have gained a lot of attention. With these points in mind, this research project has focused on the development of a novel low-cost aerosol assisted physical deposition method for TCO thin film fabrication and the development of new highly conducting materials to replace the expensive ITO for TCO applications. In this study, a new and simple aerosol assisted vapour deposition technique (i.e AACT) is developed to fabricate TCO films using TCO nanoparticle suspensions. Firstly, to test the validity of the method, ITO thin films are fabricated on float glass substrates from a nanoparticle suspension. The influence of the deposition parameters on the structural and opto-electronic properties of the thin films are investigated to understand the intricacies of the process. In order to investigate the fabrication of replacement materials for ITO, a range of doped zinc oxide powders are synthesised and processed using microwave radiation. Nominally, Al doped ZnO (AZO), Ga doped ZnO (GZO), Si doped ZnO (SZO), Cu doped ZnO (CZO) and Mn doped ZnO (MZO) singly doped ZnO powders are all investigated to determine the best metal dopants for transparent conducting ZnO. AZO and GZO pellets are found to present the best electrical conductivity for the singly doped microwave fabricated powders with values of 4.4 x 10-3 and 4.3 x 10-3 Ω.cm achieved reproducibly. In an effort to further improve the properties of ZnO, co-doping experiments, utilising the two best dopants from the previous work (i.e. Al and Ga) is investigated. ZnO structures that are co-doped with Al and Ga (AGZO) are found to exhibit significantly enhanced electrical properties than the singly doped powders. Typically, electrical conductivity value of 5.6 x 10-4 Ω.cm is obtained for AGZO pellets, which is an order of magnitude better than the previously fabricated materials. Finally, the best AZO, GZO and AGZO materials are utilised to fabricate thin films using the previously verified AACT technique. Further investigations into the opto-electrical properties of the resulting thin films is presented prior to the utilisation of the best films in a practical application. Transparent heaters are fabricated using the best AGZO thin films, which are capable of reaching a mean temperature of 132.3 °C after applying a voltage of 18 V for 10 min. This work highlights the potential for using highly conducting AGZO, particularly fabricated by the microwave synthesis route, as a potential alternative for ITO in a wide variety of applications. The research also highlights the advantages of using microwaves in the thermal processing of TCO materials which significantly reduces the energy impact of the production process.