Tetragonal zirconia quantum dots in silica matrix prepared by a modified sol–gel protocol
Tetragonal zirconia quantum dots (t-ZrO2 QDs) in silica matrix with different compositions (x)ZrO2–(100 − x)SiO2 were fabricated by a modified sol–gel protocol. Acetylacetone was added as a chelating agent to zirconium propoxide to avoid precipitation. The powders as well as thin films were given thermal treatment at 650, 875 and 1100 °C for 4 h. The silica matrix remained amorphous after thermal treatment and acted as an inert support for zirconia quantum dots. The tetragonal zirconia embedded in silica matrix transformed into monoclinic form due to thermal treatment ≥ 1100 °C. The stability of tetragonal phase of zirconia is found to enhance with increase in silica content. A homogenous dispersion of t-ZrO2 QDs in silica matrix was indicated by the mapping of Zr, Si and O elements obtained from scanning electron microscope with energy dispersive X-ray analyser. The transmission electron images confirmed the formation of tetragonal zirconia quantum dots embedded in silica. The optical band gap of zirconia QDs (3.65–5.58 eV) was found to increase with increase in zirconia content in silica. The red shift of PL emission has been exhibited with increase in zirconia content in silica.
Authors gratefully acknowledge University Grants Commission, New Delhi, Govt. of India, for financial assistance in the form of major research project (File no. 42–803/2013(SR) dated 25.03.2013).
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