Avadhut, Yamini S.; Weber, Johannes; Hammarberg, Elin; Feldmann, Claus; Schmedt auf der Günne, Jörn (2012): Structural investigation of aluminium doped ZnO nanoparticles by solid-state NMR spectroscopy. In: Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics, Vol. 14, Nr. 33: S. 11610-11625




The electrical conductivity of aluminium doped zinc oxide (AZO, ZnO:Al) materials depends on doping induced defects and grain structure. This study aims at relating macroscopic electrical conductivity of AZO nanoparticles with their atomic structure, which is non-trivial because the derived materials are heavily disordered and heterogeneous in nature. For this purpose we synthesized AZO nanoparticles with different doping levels and narrow size distribution by a microwave assisted polyol method followed by drying and a reductive treatment with forming gas. From these particles electrically conductive, optically transparent films were obtained by spin-coating. Characterization involved energy-dispersive X-ray analysis, wet chemical analysis, X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy and dynamic light scattering, which provided a basis for a detailed structural solid-state NMR study. A multinuclear (Al-27, C-13, H-1) spectroscopic investigation required a number of 1D MAS NMR and 2D MAS NMR techniques (T-1-measurements, Al-27-MQMAS, Al-27-H-1 2D-PRESTO-III heteronuclear correlation spectroscopy), which were corroborated by quantum chemical calculations with an embedded cluster method (EEIM) at the DFT level. From the combined data we conclude that only a small part of the provided Al is incorporated into the ZnO structure by substitution of Zn. The related Al-27 NMR signal undergoes a Knight shift when the material is subjected to a reductive treatment with forming gas. At higher (formal) doping levels Al forms insulating (Al, H and C containing) side-phases, which cover the surface of the ZnO:Al particles and increase the sheet resistivity of spin-coated material. Moreover, calculated Al-27 quadrupole coupling constants serve as a spectroscopic fingerprint by which previously suggested point-defects can be identified and in their great majority be ruled out.