ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) synthesized by pulsed laser ablation (PLAL) of a zinc plate in deionized water were investigated by time-resolved photoluminescence (PL) and complementary techniques (TEM, AFM, μRaman). HRTEM images show that PLAL produces crystalline ZnO NPs in wurtzite structure with a slightly distorted lattice parameter a. Consistently, optical spectra show the typical absorption edge of wurtzite ZnO (Eg = 3.38 eV) and the related excitonic PL peaked at 3.32 eV with a subnanosecond lifetime. ZnO NPs display a further PL peaking at 2.2 eV related to defects, which shows a power law decay kinetics. Thermal annealing in O2 and in a He atmosphere produces a reduction of the A1(LO) Raman mode at 565 cm-1 associated with oxygen vacancies, accompanied by a decrease of defect-related emission at 2.2 eV. Based on our experimental results the emission at 2.2 eV is proposed to originate from a photo-generated hole in the valence band recombining with an electron deeply trapped in a singly ionized oxygen vacancy. This investigation clarifies important aspects of the photophysics of ZnO NPs and indicates that ZnO emission can be controlled by thermal annealing, which is important in view of optoelectronic applications.
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry