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Materials (Basel). 2019 May 29;12(11). pii: E1744. doi: 10.3390/ma12111744.

Enhanced Sol-Gel Route to Obtain a Highly Transparent and Conductive Aluminum-Doped Zinc Oxide Thin Film.

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Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Trento, Via Sommarive 9, 38123 Trento, Italy.
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Trento, Via Sommarive 9, 38123 Trento, Italy.


The electrical and optical properties of sol-gel derived aluminum-doped zinc oxide thin films containing 2 at.% Al were investigated considering the modifying effects of (1) increasing the sol H2O content and (2) a thermal treatment procedure with a high-temperature approach followed by an additional heat-treatment step under a reducing atmosphere. According to the results obtained via the TG-DTA analysis, FT-IR spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction technique, and four-point probe resistivity measurements, it is argued that in the modified sample, the sol hydrolysis, decomposition of the deposited gel, and crystallization of grains result in grains of larger crystallite size in the range of 20 to 30 nm and a stronger c-axis preferred orientation with slightly less microstrain. The obtained morphology and grain-boundary characteristics result in improved conductivity considering the resistivity value below 6 mΩ·cm. A detailed investigation of the samples' optical properties, in terms of analyzing their absorption and dispersion behaviors through UV-Vis-NIR spectroscopy, support our reasoning for the increase of the mobility, and to a lesser extent the concentration of charge carriers, while causing only a slight degradation of optical transmittance down to nearly 80%. Hence, an enhanced performance as a transparent conducting film is claimed for the modified sample by comparing the figure-of-merit values.


Al-doped ZnO; UV-Vis-NIR spectroscopy; figure of merit; hydrolysis; resistivity; sol–gel; thin film; transparent conductors

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