Piezoelectric thin films and nanowires: synthesis and characterization

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Xiang, Shu
Wang, Zhong Lin
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Piezoelectric materials are widely used for sensors, actuators and trasducers. Traditionally, piezoelectric applications are dominated by multicomponent oxide ferroelectrics such as lead zirconate titanate (PZT), which have the advantage of high piezoelectric coefficients. Recently, one-dimensional piezoelectric nanostructures such as nanowires of zinc oxide (ZnO) and gallium nitride (GaN) has gained a lot of attention due to their combined piezoelectric and semiconducting properties. The focus of this thesis is to study the processing and electric properties of such piezoelectric thin films and nanostructures for various applications. There is an increasing interest to form thin films of multicomponent ferroelectric oxides such as PZT on three-dimensional structures for charge storage and MEMS applications. Traditional vapor phase deposition techniques of PZT offer poor conformality over threedimensional surfaces due to their reactant transport mechanisms. As an alternative, solgel synthesis may provide new process possibilities to overcome this hurdle but the film quality is usually inferior, and the yield data was usually reported for small device areas. The first part of this study is dedicated to the characterization of the electric properties and yield of PZT thin film derived from the sol-gel process. PZT thin films with good electric property and high yield over a large area have been fabricated. La doping was found to double the breakdown field due to donor doping effect. LaNiO3 thin films that can be coated on a three-dimensional surface have been synthesized by an all-nitrate based sol-gel route, and the feasibility to form a conformal coating over a three-dimensional surface by solution coating techniques has been demonstrated. ZnO and GaN micro/nanowires are promising piezoelectric materials for energy harvesting and piezotronic device applications. The second part of this study is focused on the growth of ZnO and GaN micro/nanowires by physical vapor deposition techniques. The morphology and chemical compositions are revealed by electron microscopy. Utilizing the as-grown ZnO nanowires, single nanowire based photocell has been fabricated, and its performance was studied in terms of its response time, repeatability, excitation position and polarization dependence upon He-Cd UV-laser illumination. The excitation position dependence was attributed to the competition of two opposite photo- and thermoelectric currents originated from the two junctions. The excitation polarization dependence was attributed to the difference in optical properties due to crystallographic anisotropy. Employing the as-grown GaN nanowires, single nanowire based strain sensor is demonstrated, and its behavior is discussed in terms of the effect of strain-induced piezopotential on the Schottky barrier height.
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