Confined Formation of Ultrathin ZnO Nanorods/Reduced Graphene Oxide Mesoporous Nanocomposites for High-Performance Room-Temperature NO2 Sensors

Here we demonstrate high-performance room-temperature NO2 sensors based on ultrathin ZnO nanorods/reduced graphene oxide (rGO) mesoporous nanocomposites. Ultrathin ZnO nanorods were loaded on rGO nanosheets by a facile two-step additive-free solution synthesis involving anchored seeding followed by oriented growth. The ZnO nanorod diameters were simply controlled by the seed diameters associated with the spatial confinement effects of graphene oxide (GO) nanosheets. Compared to the solely ZnO nanorods and rGO-based sensors, the optimal sensor based on ultrathin ZnO nanorods/rGO nanocomposites exhibited higher sensitivity and quicker p-type response to parts per million level of NO2 at room temperature, and the sensitivity to 1 ppm of NO2 was 119% with the response and recovery time being 75 and 132 s. Moreover, the sensor exhibited full reversibility, excellent selectivity, and a low detection limit (50 ppb) to NO2 at room temperature. In addition to the high transport capability of rGO as well as excellent NO2 adsorption ability derived from ultrathin ZnO nanorods and mesoporous structures, the superior sensing performance of the nanocomposites was attributed to the synergetic effect of ZnO and rGO, which was realized by the electron transfer across the ZnO–rGO interfaces through band energy alignment.