Zinc oxide (ZnO) thin films have been widely investigated due to their multifunctional properties, i.e., catalytic, semiconducting and optical. They have found practical use in a wide number of application fields. However, the presence of a compact micro/nanostructure has often limited the resulting material properties. Moreover, with the advent of low-dimensional ZnO nanostructures featuring unique physical and chemical properties, the interest in studying ZnO thin films diminished more and more. Therefore, the possibility to combine at the same time the advantages of thin-film based synthesis technologies together with a high surface area and a porous structure might represent a powerful solution to prepare ZnO thin films with unprecedented physical and chemical characteristics that may find use in novel application fields. Within this scope, this review offers an overview on the most successful synthesis methods that are able to produce ZnO thin films with both framework and textural porosities. Moreover, we discuss the related applications, mainly focused on photocatalytic degradation of dyes, gas sensor fabrication and photoanodes for dye-sensitized solar cells.
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