Fast, sensitive and discriminating detection of hydrogen at room temperature is crucial for storage, transportation, and distribution of hydrogen as an energy source. One dimensional nanowires of SnO2 are potential candidates for improved H2 sensor performance. The single directional conducting continuous nanowires can decrease electrical noise, and their large active surface area could improve the response and recovery time of the sensor. In this work we discuss synthesis and characterization of nanowire arrays made using nanosecond ultraviolet wavelength (266 nm) laser interference processing of ultrathin SnO2 films on SiO2 substrates. The laser energy was chosen to be above the melting point of the films. The results show that the final nanowire formation is dominated by preferential evaporation as compared to thermocapillary flow. The nanowire height (and hence wire aspect ratio) increased with increasing initial film thickness h0 and with increasing laser energy density Eo. Furthermore, a self-limiting effect was observed where-in the wire formation ceased at a specific final remaining thickness of SnO2 that was almost independent of h0 for a given Eo. To understand these effects, finite element modeling of the nanoscale laser heating was performed. This showed that the temperature rise under laser heating was a strong non-monotonic function of film thickness. As a result, the preferential evaporation rate varies as wire formation occurs, eventually leading to a shut-off of evaporation at a characteristic thickness. This results in the stoppage of wire formation. This combination of nanosecond pulsed laser experiments and thermal modeling shows that several unique synthesis approaches can be utilized to control the nanowire characteristics.
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