ZnO has the built-in characteristics of both ionic and covalent compound semiconductors, which makes the metal–ZnO carrier transport mechanism quite intricate. The growth mechanism-centric change in ZnO defect density and carrier concentration also makes the contact formation and behavior unpredictable. This study investigates the uncertainty in Au–ZnO contact behavior for application-oriented research and the development on ZnO nanostructures. Herein, we explain the phenomenon for how Au–ZnO contact could be rectifying or non-rectifying. Growth method-dependent defect engineering was exploited to explain the change in Schottky barrier heights at the Au–ZnO interface, and the change in device characteristics from Schottky to Ohmic and vice versa. The ZnO nanorods were fabricated via aqueous chemical growth (ACG) and microwave-assisted growth (MAG) methods. For further investigations, one ACG sample was doped with Ga, and another was subjected to oxygen plasma treatment (OPT). The ACG and Ga-doped ACG samples showed a quasi-Ohmic and Ohmic behavior, respectively, because of a high surface and subsurface level donor defect-centric Schottky barrier pinning at the Au–ZnO interface. However, the ACG-OPT and MAG samples showed a more pronounced Schottky contact because of the presence of low defect-centric carrier concentration via MAG, and the removal of the surface accumulation layer via the OPT process.
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