Reduced graphene oxide–ZnO self-assembled films: tailoring the visible light photoconductivity by the intrinsic defect states in ZnO†
ZnO is a wide direct bandgap semiconductor; its absorption can be tuned to the visible spectral region by controlling the intrinsic defect levels. Combining graphene with ZnO can improve its performance by photo-induced charge separation by ZnO and electronic transport through graphene. When reduced graphene oxide–ZnO is prepared by a hydrothermal method, the photophysical studies indicate that oxygen vacancy defect states are healed out by diffusion of oxygen from GO to ZnO during its reduction. Because of the passivation of oxygen vacancies, the visible light photoconductivity of the hybrid is depleted, compared to pure ZnO. In order to overcome this reduction in photocurrent, a photoelectrode is fabricated by layer-by-layer (LBL) self-assembly of ZnO and reduced graphene oxide. The multilayer films are fabricated by the electrostatic LBL self-assembly technique using negatively charged poly(sodium 4-styrene sulfonate)-reduced graphene oxide (PSS-rGO) and positively charged polyacrylamide-ZnO (PAM-ZnO) as building blocks. The multilayer films fabricated by this technique will be highly interpenetrating; it will enhance the interaction between the ZnO and rGO perpendicular to the electrode surface. Upon illumination under bias voltage defect assisted excitation occurs in ZnO and the photogenerated charge carriers can transfer to graphene. The electron transferred to graphene sheets can recombine in two ways; either it can recombine with the holes in the valence band of ZnO in its bilayer or the ZnO in the next bilayer. This type of tunnelling of electrons from graphene to the successive bilayers will result in efficient charge transfer. This transfer and propagation of electron will enhance as the number of bilayers increases, which in turn improve the photocurrent of the multilayer films. Therefore this self-assembly technique is an effective approach to fabricate semiconductor–graphene films with excellent conductivity.