The electrical and optical properties of sol–gel derived aluminum-doped zinc oxide thin films containing 2 at.% Al were investigated considering the modifying effects of (1) increasing the sol H2
O content and (2) a thermal treatment procedure with a high-temperature approach followed by an additional heat-treatment step under a reducing atmosphere. According to the results obtained via the TG-DTA analysis, FT-IR spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction technique, and four-point probe resistivity measurements, it is argued that in the modified sample, the sol hydrolysis, decomposition of the deposited gel, and crystallization of grains result in grains of larger crystallite size in the range of 20 to 30 nm and a stronger c-axis preferred orientation with slightly less microstrain. The obtained morphology and grain-boundary characteristics result in improved conductivity considering the resistivity value below 6 mΩ·cm. A detailed investigation of the samples’ optical properties, in terms of analyzing their absorption and dispersion behaviors through UV-Vis-NIR spectroscopy, support our reasoning for the increase of the mobility, and to a lesser extent the concentration of charge carriers, while causing only a slight degradation of optical transmittance down to nearly 80%. Hence, an enhanced performance as a transparent conducting film is claimed for the modified sample by comparing the figure-of-merit values.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited