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Probing the Kinetics of Crystallite Growth in Sol–Gel Derived Metal-Oxides Using Nanocalorimetry

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journal contribution
posted on 18.02.2020, 13:34 by Andre Zeumault, Steven K. Volkman
In this work, we show that fast-scanning chip nanocalorimetry can be used to kinetically separate the heat flow contributions of crystallite growth and precursor decomposition that occur during the thermal decomposition of metal-oxide solgel precursors. We illustrate the technique using zinc acetate dihydrate, a common precursor used in the sol-gel synthesis of zinc oxide thin films. Through an appropriately defined heating sequence consisting of precursor decomposition, followed by rapid quenching and subsequent zinc oxide crystallite growth, it is shown that the exothermic peaks corresponding to the growth of zinc oxide crystals can be kinetically separated from the endothermic peaks associated with precursor decomposition. The kinetic separation of these processes enables an analysis to be performed on the crystallite growth kinetics of zinc oxide within a zinc acetate matrix, as it would naturally occur during a solgel process. Through a quantitative analysis, we estimate the activation energy of crystallite growth, confirming Johnson–Mehl–Avrami growth kinetics at low heating rates, and extract a time–temperature-transformation diagram to visualize and quantify isocrystalline surfaces. Such fundamental knowledge regarding the evolution of crystallinity as a function of heating conditions is useful in the much broader sense of application development, serving as a guide to direct the precise thermokinetic engineering of crystallinity in sol–gel derived metal-oxide films. In particular, we emphasize its significance for electronic (ideally, high crystallinity), optoelectronic, and thermoelectric (ideally, low crystallinity) applications.