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Development of Nanoscale Inhomogeneities during Drying of Sol–Gel Derived Amorphous Lead Zirconate Titanate Precursor Thin Films

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posted on 06.09.2011, 00:00 by Tomasz M. Stawski, Sjoerd A. Veldhuis, Hessel L. Castricum, Enrico G. Keim, Guy Eeckhaut, Wim Bras, Dave H. A. Blank, Johan E. ten Elshof
The structural evolution of sol–gel derived lead zirconate titanate (PZT) precursor films during and after physical drying was investigated by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS), selected area electron diffraction (SAED), and time-resolved X-ray diffraction (XRD). Films were deposited from initial 0.3 mol/dm3 precursor sols with varying hydrolysis ratios. Zr-rich grains of 1–10 nm size, embedded in a Pb-, Zr-, and Ti-containing amorphous matrix were found in as-dried films. The Zr-rich regions were crystalline at hydrolysis ratios [H2O]/[PZT] < 27.6, and amorphous at ratios > 100. X-ray diffraction analysis of PZT and zirconia sols revealed that the crystalline nanoparticles in both sols are identical and are probably composed of nanosized zirconium oxoacetate-like clusters. This study demonstrates that time-resolved X-ray diffraction combined with electron energy loss spectroscopy mapping is a powerful tool to monitor the nanoscale structural evolution of sol–gel derived thin films.

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