Zinc Oxide (ZnO) is a II-VI semiconductor material with a wide direct band-gap of 3.37 eV at room temperature (RT). In the past decades, the material has been used for a variety of applications such as gas sensors, surface acoustic wave devices, or transparent contacts. Recently, ZnO has gained a new substantial interest primarily because to its potentialities for optoelectronic and spintronic applications. The renewed interest has been fueled by the availability of high-quality bulk substrates, reports of p-type conduction and theoretical predictions of its ferromagnetic behavior at room temperature when doped with transition metals. In the domain of optoelectronics, its main applications include devices emitting in the blue and UV regions by exploiting its wide band-gap such as light-emitting and laser diodes. With respect to several wide band-gap semiconductor materials, ZnO has the advantage of a larger exciton binding energy (about 60 meV) which paves the way for an intense near-band-edge excitonic emission at room and higher temperatures. On the other hand, a band gap engineering can be also achieved by the incorporation of Cadmium and Magnesium atoms into the ZnO lattice.
Many techniques have been used to prepare ZnO in various forms, such as single crystals, powders and films. In the past few years, the great attention toward materials with nanometric size have motivated a number of studies on the synthesis of ZnO nanocrystals. Ion implantation is one of the most effective and versatile technique to obtain nanoparticles. ZnO particles embedded in silica matrix have been successfully prepared by ion implantation followed by thermal oxidation.
In this work, we report on a detailed structural and optical characterization of the ZnO-silica nanocomposites by using several complementary techniques; in particular, Glancing Incidence X-ray Diffraction (GIXRD), Rutherford Backscattering Spectrometry (RBS), linear Optical Absorption (OA) in the UV-near IR spectrum and Photo-Luminescence (PL). The ZnO nanoparticles embedded in SiO2 matrix were prepared by implanting the substrates with 130 keV Zn+ ions at doses of 1, 1.5 and 2´1017 ions/cm2. Subsequently, the implanted samples were annealed for 1h in a furnace at a temperature between 500 and 800°C under flowing O2 gas. X-ray diffraction results indicate the formation of Zn and ZnO nanoparticles in the as-implanted and annealed samples, respectively. Moreover, the ZnO nanocrystals embedded in the SiO2 matrix have a (002) preferred orientation. After the oxidation, the optical absorption spectra show an absorption edge at about 374 nm by confirming the presence of the ZnO particles. A relatively strong exciton photoluminescence peak was observed at room temperature under pulsed N2 laser excitation at l=337nm. The results obtained, peculiarly related to the implantation doses and annealing temperature, are discussed.