Functionalized epitaxial graphene as versatile platform for air quality sensors

Abstract: The work presented in this thesis focuses on epitaxial graphene on SiC as a platform for air quality sensors. Several approaches have been tested and evaluated to increase the sensitivity, selectivity, speed of response and stability of the sensors. The graphene surfaces have been functionalized, for example, with different metal oxide nanoparticles and nanolayers using hollow-cathode sputtering and pulsed laser deposition. The modified surfaces were investigated towards topography, integrity and chemical composition with characterization methods such as atomic force microscopy and Raman spectroscopy. Interaction energies between several analytes and nanoparticle-graphene-combinations were calculated by density functional theory to find the optimal material for specific target gases, and to verify the usefulness of this approach. The impact of environmental influences such as operating temperature, relative humidity and UV irradiation on sensing properties was investigated as well. To further enhance sensor performances, the first-order time-derivative of the sensor’s resistance was introduced to speed up sensor response and a temperature cycled operation mode was investigated towards selectivity.Applying these methods in laboratory conditions, sensors with a quantitative readout of single ppb benzene and formaldehyde were developed. These results show promise to fill the existing gap of low-cost but highly sensitive and fast gas sensors for air quality monitoring.

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