Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

M. Samy El-Shall


Zinc Oxide (ZnO) is one of the most extensively studied semiconductors because of its unique properties, namely, its wide band gap (3.37 eV) and high excitation binding energy (60 meV). These properties make ZnO a promising material for uses in a broad range of applications including sensors, catalysis and optoelectronic devices. The presented research covers a broad spectrum of these interesting nanomaterials, from their synthesis and characterization to their use as photocatalyts. A new synthetic approach for producing morphology controlled ZnO nanostructures was developed using microwave irradiation (MWI). The rapid decomposition of zinc acetate in the presence of a mixture of oleic acid (OAC) and oleylamine (OAM) results in the formation of hexagonal ZnO nanopyramids and ZnO rods of varying aspect ratios. The factors that influence the morphology of these ZnO nanostructures were investigated. Using ligand exchange, the ZnO nanostructures can be dispersed in aqueous medium, thus allowing their use as photocatalysts for the degradation of malachite green dye in water. Photocatalytic activity is studied as a function of morphology; and, the ZnO nanorods show enhanced photocatalytic activity for the degradation of the dye compared to hexagonal ZnO nanopyramids. After demonstrating the catalytic activity of these ZnO nanostructures, various ways to enhance photocatalytic activity were studied by modification of this MWI method. Photocatalytic activity is enhanced through band gap modulation and the reduction of electron-hole recombination. Several approaches were studied, which included the incorporation of Au nanoparticles, N-doping of ZnO, supporting ZnO nanostructures on reduced graphene oxide (RGO), and supporting N-doped ZnO on N-doped RGO. ZnO-based nanostructures were studied systematically through the entire process from synthesis and characterization to their use as photocatalysis. This allows for a thorough understanding of the parameters that impact these processes and their unique photocatalytic properties.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013

Included in

Chemistry Commons