LiNbO3 and ZnO have shown great potential for photochemical surface reactions and specific photocatalytic processes. However, the efficiency of LiNbO3 is limited due to recombination or back reactions and ZnO exhibits a chemical instability in a liquid cell. In this dissertation, both materials were coated with precise thickness of metal oxide layers to passivate the surfaces and to enhance their photocatalytic efficiency. LiNbO3 was coated with plasma enhanced atomic layer deposited (PEALD) ZnO and Al2O3, and molecular beam deposited TiO2 and VO2. On the other hand, PEALD ZnO and single crystal ZnO were passivated with PEALD SiO2 and Al2O3.
Metal oxide/LiNbO3 heterostructures were immersed in aqueous AgNO3 solutions and illuminated with ultraviolet (UV) light to form Ag nanoparticle patterns. Alternatively, Al2O3 and SiO2/ZnO heterostructures were immersed in K3PO4 buffer solutions and studied for photoelectrochemical reactions. A fundamental aspect of the heterostructures is the band alignment and band bending, which was deduced from in situ photoemission measurements.
This research has provided insight to three aspects of the heterostructures. First, the band alignment at the interface of metal oxides/LiNbO3, and Al2O3 or SiO2/ZnO were used to explain the possible charge transfer processes and the direction of carrier flow in the heterostructures. Second, the effect of metal oxide coatings on the LiNbO3 with different internal carrier concentrations was related to the surface photochemical reactions. Third is the surface passivation and degradation mechanism of Al2O3 and SiO2 on ZnO was established. The heterostructures were characterized after stability tests using atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and cross-section transmission electron microscopy (TEM).
The results indicate that limited thicknesses of ZnO or TiO2 on polarity patterned LiNbO3 (PPLN) enhances the Ag+ photoinduced reduction process. ZnO seems more efficient than TiO2 possibly due to a higher carrier mobility. However, an increase of the ZnO thickness (≥ 4 nm) reduced the effect of the PPLN substrate on the Ag nanoparticle pattern. For the case of Al2O3 and SiO2/ZnO heterostructures, SiO2 remains intact through 1 h stability tests. Unlike SiO2, Al2O3 shows surface degradation after a short stability test of a few minutes. Thus, SiO2 provides improved passivation over Al2O3. A detailed microscopy analysis indicates the underneath ZnO photocorrodes in the SiO2/ZnO samples, which is possibly due to transport of ions through the SiO2 protective layer.