Although unmodified ZnO nanostructure sensors clearly have a role to play in gas sensing, the high-temperature operation of these oxide sensors is energy-consuming and not favorable in many cases, particularly in an explosive environment.

Now, Taiwanese researchers, led by Jr-Hau He from the National Taiwan University, have demonstrated that a plasma-polymerized acrylonitrile (PP-AN)/ZnO nanobelt (NB) nanosensor provides a better oxygen-sensing response than a bare ZnO NB nanosensor thanks to the sorption nature of the polymer. Furthermore, with the aid of ultraviolet light, significant enhancements in the response of PP-AN/ZnO NB nanosensors have been obtained at low temperature.

"Lowering the working temperature of the sensor can avoid structural deterioration of the device, which can cause instability in the response," said Jr-Hau He.

The polymer-functionalized ZnO nanomaterial being developed by the team paves the way for gas sensors with a lower operating temperature, reduced power consumption, and enhanced sensitivity.

This work was published in Nanotechnology.