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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

James J. Watkins

Second Advisor

Kenneth R. Carter

Third Advisor

Wei Fan

Subject Categories

Chemical Engineering | Materials Science and Engineering


Nanostructured metal oxide films have many applications in catalysis, microelectronics, microfluidics, photovoltaics and other fields. Since the performance of a device depends greatly on the structure of the material, the development of methodologies that enable prescriptive control of morphology are of great interest. The focus of this work is to control the structure and properties of the nanostructured metal oxide films using novel synthetic schemes in supercritical fluids and to use those films as key building components in alternative energy applications.

A supercritical fluid is a substance at a temperature and pressure above its critical point. It typically exhibits gas-like transport properties and liquid-like densities. Supercritical fluid deposition (SFD) utilizes these properties of supercritical CO2 (scCO2 ) to deposit chemically pure metal, oxides and alloys of metal films. SFD is a chemical vapor deposition (CVD)-like process in the sense that it uses similar metal organic precursors and deposits films at elevated temperatures. Instead of vaporizing or subliming the precursors, they are dissolved in supercritical fluids. SFD has typically shown to exhibit higher precursor concentrations, lower deposition temperatures, conformal deposition of films on high aspect ratio features as compared to CVD.

In2 O3 , ZnO and SnO2 are attractive materials because they are used in transparent conductors. SFD of these materials were studied and In2 O3 deposition kinetics using tris(2,2,6,6-tetramethyl-3,5-heptanedionato) In (III) as precursor were determined. Growth rate dependence on the deposition temperature and the precursor concentrations were studied and the physicochemical and optical properties of In 2 O3 films were characterized.

Metal oxide nanochannels that can potentially be used for microfluidics have been fabricated by sequentially performing nanoimprint lithography (NIL) and SFD. NIL was used to pattern photoresist grating on substrates and SFD of TiO2 was performed thereafter. Subsequent calcination of the samples at high temperature of 400 °C revealed TiO2 nanochannels.

H2 -assisted-codeposition of Pt and cerium oxide using SFD was performed on porous carbon substrates for their use as anodes for direct methanol fuel cells. X-ray photoelectron analysis revealed that Pt was deposited as a pure metal and Ce was deposited as an oxide. Electrochemical analysis of a full cell revealed that an anode prepared with SFD exhibited better performance than that prepared with conventional brush-painting method.

The second process that was developed is a direct spray-on technique to rapidly deposit crystalline nanoscale dendritic TiO2 onto a solid surface. This technique employs atomization of precursor solutions in supercritical fluids combined with the plasma thermal spraying. A solution of metal oxide precursor in scCO2 was expanded across a nozzle into the plasma jet where it is converted to metal oxide. We have investigated TiO2 as our model system using titanium tetra isopropoxide (Ttip) as a precursor. The film structure depends on key process variables including precursor concentration, precursor solution flow rate and plasma gun to substrate distance. The high surface area of the deposited films is attractive for applications in photovoltaics and we have fabricated dye-sensitized solar cells using these films.