PhD Defense of Ran TAO

«Piezoelectric generators based on semiconducting nanowires: simulation and experiments»
Tuesday, Janoary 31st, 2017 at 10:30

Energy autonomy in small sensors networks is one of the key quality parameter for end-users. It is even critical when addressing applications in structures health monitoring (avionics, machines, building…), or in medical or environmental monitoring applications. Piezoelectric materials make it possible to exploit the otherwise wasted mechanical energy which is abundant in our environment (e. g. from vibrations, deformations related to movements or air fluxes). Thus, they can contribute to the energy autonomy of those small sensors. In the form of nanowires (NWs), piezoelectric materials offer a high sensibility allowing very small mechanical deformations to be exploited. They are also easy to integrate, even on flexible substrates.
In this PhD thesis, we studied the potential of semiconducting piezoelectric NWs, of ZnO or III-V compounds, for the conversion from mechanical to electrical energy. An increasing number of publications have recently bloomed about these nanostructures and promising nanogenerators (NGs) have been reported. However, many questions are still open with, for instance, contradictions that remain between theoretical predictions and experimental observations.
Our objective is to better understand the physical mechanisms which rule the piezoelectric response of semiconducting NWs and of the associated NGs. The experimental work was based on the fabrication of VING (Vertical Integrated Nano Generators) devices and their characterization. An electromechanical characterization set-up was built to evaluate the performance and thermal effects of the fabricated NGs under controlled compressive forces. Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) was also used to evaluate the Young modulus and the effective piezoelectric coefficients of GaN, GaAs and ZnO NWs, as well as of ZnO-based core/shell NWs. Among them, ZnO NWs were grown using chemical bath deposition over rigid (Si) or flexible (stainless steel) substrates and further integrated to build VING piezoelectric generators. The VING design was based on simulations which neglected the effect of free carriers, as done in most publications to date.
This theoretical work was further improved by considering the complete coupling between mechanical, piezoelectric and semiconducting effects, including free carriers. By taking into account the surface Fermi level pinning, we were able to reconcile theoretical and experimental observations. In particular, we propose an explanation to the fact that size effects are experimentally observed for NWs with diameters 10 times higher than expected from ab-initio simulations, or the fact that VING response is non-symmetrical according to whether the substrate on which it is integrated is actuated with a convex or concave bending.

Members of  jury :
Mireille MOUIS - Supervisor
Laurent MONTèS - Co-supervisor
Gustavo ARDILA-RODRIGUEZ - Co-supervisor
Philippe DOLLFUS - Rapporteur
Alain FOUCARAN - Rapporteur
Daniel ALQUIER - Reviewer
Carole ROSSI - Reviewer


Thesis prepared in the laboratory : UMR 5130 - IMEP-LAHC  , supervised by  Mireille MOUIS, supervisor and  Laurent MONTES , co-supervisor.
Date infos
Defense of a doctoral thesis of Ran TAO,  for the University of Grenoble Alpes, speciality "NANO ELECTRONICS & NANO TECHNOLOGIES ", entitled:
Location infos
Room Z108 (Bâtiment Z 1er étage) - Phelma/Minatec
3 rue parvis Louis Néel
38016 Grenoble cedex1