, Volume 22, Issue 1-2, pp 167-179

Sol-Gel Processed TiO2-Based Nano-Sized Powders for Use in Thick-Film Gas Sensors for Atmospheric Pollutant Monitoring

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Sol-gel routes were used to prepare pure and 5 at% and 10 at% Ta- or Nb-dope TiO2 nano-sized powders. The thermal decomposition behaviour of the precursors was studied using simultaneous thermogravimetric and differential thermal analysis (TG/DTA). X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis showed that the powders heated to 400°C were crystalline in the anatase TiO2 structure. The pure TiO2 powder heated to 850°C showed the rutile structure. The addition of Ta and Nb inhibited the anatase-to-rutile phase transformation up to 950–1050°C. Ta was soluble in the titania lattice up to the concentration of 10 at%, while the solubility of Nb was 5 at%. Thick films were fabricated with these powders by screen printing technology and then fired for 1 h at different temperatures in the 650–1050°C range. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observations showed that the anatase-to-rutile phase transformation induces a grain growth of about one order of magnitude for pure TiO2. The addition of Ta and Nb is effective to keep the TiO2 grain size at a nanometric level even at 950°C, though grain growth was observed with increasing temperature. The gas-sensitive electrical response of the thick films were tested in laboratory, in environments with CO in dry and wet air. Conductance measurements showed a good gas response only for the nanostructured titania-based films. For field tests, the prototype sensors were placed beside a conventional station for atmospheric pollutant monitoring. The electrical response of the thick films was compared with the results of the analytical instruments. The same trend was observed for both systems, demonstrating the use of gas sensors for this aim.