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This article has an erratum: [https://doi.org/10.1051/epjap/210039s]


Issue
Eur. Phys. J. Appl. Phys.
Volume 94, Number 2, May 2021
Article Number 20402
Number of page(s) 8
Section Nanomaterials and Nanotechnologies
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/epjap/2021210053
Published online 28 May 2021

© EDP Sciences, 2021

1 Introduction

Nanomaterials are being incessantly investigated for realistic applications in electronic, chemical and biomedical fields [1]. It assists to create materials with enhanced properties due to the quantum size effect [2]. Most of these distinctive properties are promising for technical applications [3]. NCPs are hybrid materials composed of multiphase matter. The composite has novel and combined performance which original components lack [4].

ZnS is a non-toxic matter that represents a significant element of the II–VI chalcogenides. It has a novel character in fundamental research and massive technical uses in several quantum devices [57]. The bulk ZnS has a wide direct bandgap about 3.66 eV, high transparency in the visible region, superior transport properties and thermal stability [8]. This allowed ZnS to be commonly used in many applications in electronics industrial such as UV light-emitting diodes, lasers, solar selective decorative coatings and optoelectronic devices [912]. ZnS may be formed in two crystallographic phases, either hexagonal wurtzite or cubic zinc blend construction [13]. The electronic and optical properties of ZnS were found to be size dependent, thus it is suitable for different applications such as photo-detectors and biological labeling [1417]. ZnS can be doped by various matters for modifying and tailoring its properties for new applications [6,7].

PC is a thermoplastic polymer that has high transparency, impact and temperature resistance [18]. It has a high modulus of elasticity and mechanical strength [19], in addition to the excellent optical properties [20,21]. PC is commonly used in medical applications such as optical lenses, CDs and DVDs and electronic tools [18]. PC is also a suitable host matter for NPs forming NCPs. These NCPs play an important role in research due to their optical properties that leds to wider use in optoelectronic devices [22]. Also, it substitutes many common metals and alloys [22], which are often of higher recital in many industrial applications [23,24]. All of these properties together reduce the price of the optoelectronic devices and enhance its excellence [25].

On the other hand, when organic compounds are irradiated with γ-rays, chemical bonds are usually broken and free radicals are occurred. Attempts to understand the effects of radiation on organic compounds have been studied by many researchers for a long time [2633].

Although a previous study showed that ZnS is a suitable radiostabilizer for gamma-irradiated polymers (PVC) by decreasing degradation index from 0.094 to 0.024 [34], it is essential to consider the issue of radiation stability in further study. Several authors were interested in studying the radiation resistance and quantify the aging test results of some solar cell materials illustrating the factors that accelerate degradation [3537].

Additionally, the color modifications in irradiated polymers evaluate the optical variations, as it is considered an important function in industrial applications [38]. The color change in irradiated PC could be ascribed to the production of the active free radicals and strong conjugated bonding [39]. The effects of ZnS filler on the thermal expansions of PC has been studied by DeSarkar et al. [40]. It is found that the flow behavior of the composite would increase due to the presence of ZnS, primarily associated to appreciable reduction in molecular weights of the PC [40]. In a prior work, the optical and structural properties of γ irradiated ZnS/PVA NCP were investigated [41]. It is been found that the γ radiation creates more compacted construction of ZnS/PVA NCP and produced good dispersion of ZnS NPs in PVA matrix. In the current research, the effect of γ radiation on the optical properties of PC/ZnS NCP has been investigated. The aim is to focus on the viability of improving the optical characteristics of this NCP and to refine its recital for the benefit of optoelectronic applications.

2 Materials and methods

2.1 Preparation of polymeric NCP

ZnS NPs have been synthesized using chemical coprecipitation procedure at air atmosphere by EDTA as stabilizing agent, as reported previously in our previous work [42]. The ZnS NPs have been used to prepare ZnS/PC NCP by solution casting method. In this method, 3 g of PC (Polybisphenol-A-carbonate, in the form of crystals; obtained from Bayer Middle East Egypt Company. It is commercially known as Macrolon, amorphous polymer type 31001 of molar mass 272.29 g/mol) was drop wise added to DMF (50 ml) under continual strong stirring until the PC powder fully dissolve. Next, 0.125 gram of the synthesized ZnS NPs is added to the previous solution with stirring at room temperature till a uniform solution is achieved. The resulting solution was finally casted on spotless Petri dish and allowed to dry for 24 h at 50 °C until the NCP film is obtained.

2.2 Irradiation facility

A 60Co source (AEC Ltd.) was used to irradiate the NCP samples. This source is of energies 1.173 and 1.332 MeV, with a dose rate of 2.4 Gy/min. The irradiation was carried out at NCRRT, Atomic Energy Authority, Cairo, Egypt.

2.3 Analysis of the NCP samples

X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis was performed by means of a diffractometer (X'Pert-Pro MPD; Philips, Eindhoven, Netherland) through a goniometer with Cu-Kα ray. The XRD patterns were scanned at the rate of 2°/min, at the 2θ range 4‑60°. LaB6 standard was used to accurate instrumental broadening. The crystalline structure was developed using Rietveld profile method, with MAUD program [41]. A scanning electron microscope (HRSEM, JSM 6510A, Jeol, Tokyo, Japan) was used to investigate the morphology of the samples. Also, a transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) on a JEOL TEM (JSM2010; JEOL Ltd., Tokyo, Japan) was used to investigate the profile and electron diffraction of the NPs.

The UV spectroscopy measurements were conducted using a spectrophotometer (Jasco 570, 370–780 nm). The analysis was carried out in the 200‑900 nm wavelength range, in absorption manner. The Commission Internationale de E'Claire (CIE) technique was used for illustrating the color variations in the NCP samples. Both the tristimulus values and the color parameters were estimated by means of the method illustrated before [42].

3 Results and discussion

3.1 Characteristics of the ZnS NPs

The XRD curves of the synthesized ZnS samples are shown in Figure 1a. The ZnS samples were distinguished by the appearance of three peaks corresponding to 2θ of 28.6, 47.5 and 56.8 that match the 111, 220 and 311 crystalline planes of cubic ZnS, correspondingly, [JCPDS card No.05–0566]. The apparent widening of the diffraction peaks is ascribed to the tiny crystalline size (L) of the ZnS. Using the Debye-Scherrer formula, L is deduced from the intense 2θ = 28.6° (111), was found to be around 4nm. These results confirmed the development of high crystalline ZnS in cubic sphalerite phase.(1)

where k is the Scherrer's constant, λ is the wavelength of the used Cu–Kα X-ray (1.54 nm) and θ is the Bragg angle.

The morphology of ZnS NPs has been investigated using SEM (Fig. 1b). It is found that the ZnS crystals are spherical in configuration and agglomerated. These agglomerates are composed of regular shaped NPs of size in the range of 10–25nm. TEM image showed that the ZnS crystals are of mean diameter ∼2.5nm (Fig. 1c).

thumbnail Fig. 1

(a) XRD chart of ZnS NPs, (b) SEM micrograph of ZnS NPs, (c) TEM micrograph of ZnS NPs.

3.2 Optical analysis of PC/ZnS NCP samples

3.2.1 Analysis of UV absorption

The UV absorbance measurements have been performed to determine the alterations in Eg construction and find knowledge about the optical-electronic transitions; see Figure 2. All the PC/ZnS NCP samples displayed the same tendency in the wavelength range 310–900 nm. An elevated absorbance band was detected at near 290 nm and reduced at near 300 nm. The reduction in absorbance versus wavelength may be owing to nπ* transition carbonyl grouping C=O and ππ* phenyl grouping [43]. Moreover, this may be due to the creation of color centers at 290–300 nm wavelength range [44]. At near 290 nm, the photo-chemical reaction occurs in PC matrix due to the effect of UV radiation which encourages the macro-molecules to its singlet or triplet state [43]. At the range 310–400 nm, the γ radiation will break only the C‑H bond. At wavelengths 290‑300 nm, degradation of the bonds that correspond to energies fewer than 4.5 and 6.2 eV will be achieved [45].

Additionally, the absorbance of the PC/ZnS NCP samples improved with increase in radiation doses γ to 230 kGy. This may due to the development of conjugated bonds. Therefore, the Eg is predictable to be reduced as the radiation doses γ increase [46]. The creation of conjugated bonding has been activated owing to the tiny size of ZnS NPs that decreases the atomic volume taken by NPs, thus its density increases and hence the absorption improves [47].

The extinction coefficient (k) provides knowledge regarding the fractional debauchery of the incident photons due to absorption and scattering means. The complex refractive index is expressed as(2)

in which n is the real part and k is the imaginary one. The value of k is estimated from the formula:(3)in which λ is the wavelength of the incident light, α is the absorption coefficient that characterizes the quantity of the absorbed light by matter, and hence it is useful to explore the band structure alternation. α can be calculated using the formula:(4)

thumbnail Fig. 2

The absorbance spectra of the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

3.2.2 Analysis of band gap

The values of optical band gap energy (Eg) have been estimated using Tauc's formula [48]:(5)

where α is the absorption coefficient, B is the energy-independent constant, is the photon energy. The exponent n is related to the character of electronic transition. n has the values 1/2 or 3/2 in case of direct transitions, and is 2 or 3 for indirect transition according to being allowed or forbidden, in that order [49]. Usually, insulators/semiconductors matters are classified into direct and indirect band gaps. The valance band maximum (VBM) and the conduction band minimum (CBM) of the direct band gap matter contest at wave vector k = 0 [50]. Therefore, n has the value of 1/2. In other matter, when the quantum selection rule does not permit the direct transition between the VBM and CBM, the transition will be forbidden direct transition and hence n is 3/2. Indirect electron transition takes place when the VBM and CBM are at different wave vectors. Thus, the absorption or emission of phonon energy will be convoyed by electron transitions from VB to CB [51]. The Eg values are calculated from the plot of (αhν)1/n versus (see Figs. 35).

The Eg of the pristine PC/ZnS NCP sample is 3.83 (estimated from Fig 3), which is comparatively fewer than that published previously for PC (4.44 eV) [52]. This may be owing to presence of ZnS NPs which stimulate the defects, thus modify the Eg internal structure [52]. The change of Eg with radiation doses γ is shown in Figure 6. The Eg reduces from 3.83 to 3.00 eV when the radiation doses γ were increased to 230 kGy. The decrease in Eg is owing to growing bonds between ZnS NPs and PC by the effect of γ ray. Accordingly, defects, thus localized states are produced in the Eg regime, resultant in electronic transitions with lower energies and enhancing the disordered character in the NCP. In more details, the action of γ rays on NCP samples is the formation of free radicals due to degradation that leads to conjugated bonds formation. On raising the radiation doses γ, the free radicals will be formed more rapidly, growing the unsaturated and conjugated bonding, resulting in reducing Eg [46]. In addition, the decrease in Eg may be owing to the dispersion of NPs which affect the transmission. This enhances the microstrain and disorder density, creating lattice defects, hence reducing the ordering, thus Eg. [53].

To evaluate Eg and determine the kind of electronic transition, we used the optical dielectric loss (Fig. 7) and Tauc's model (Figs. 35) as the optical dielectric function is extremely related to the band structure of matters. Also, the use of UV spectroscopy to investigate the optical dielectric function is appreciably helpful in deducing the entire band structure of matters [54]. The electronic transition among occupied and unoccupied states can be studied using the imaginary part of the optical dielectric function, ε″ [55]. The optical dielectric loss ε″ is estimated from the relation:(6)

in which n is the refractive index and k is the extinction coefficient. The optical dielectric loss spectra of the pristine and irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples are shown in Figure 7. The values of Eg gained from optical dielectric loss are nearly equivalent to the values gained from Tauc's model as given in Table 1. Consequently, the type of electronic transition is a forbidden direct transition [49].

thumbnail Fig. 3

The plots of (α)2 vs. () for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

thumbnail Fig. 4

The plots of (α)0.5 vs. () for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

thumbnail Fig. 5

The plots of (α)2/3 vs. () for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

thumbnail Fig. 6

Dependence of Eg and EU on the γ dose.

thumbnail Fig. 7

Optical dielectric loss for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples as a function of energy

Table 1

The optical band gap (estimated from Tauc's model and ε″ vs. ) for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

3.2.3 Analysis of urbach energy

The construction of polymeric matter can be explored using the Urbach energy (EU). This can be throughout the finding of the defect level inside the forbidden band gap [56]. The EU values may be estimated using the formula [57]:(7)

in which α is the absorption coefficient, αo is the material constant. EU indicates the band tail width of the localized states within Eg; it characterizes the amount of the amorphous phase [58]. The plot of lnα versus hυ (photon energy) was used in determining EU. EU improved from 0.15 to 0.66 eV on increasing radiation doses γ up to 230 kGy, as shown in Figure 6. The enhancement in EU may ascribe to the enhancement in the disordered character due to crosslinking [59].

3.2.4 Analysis of refractive index

The real part of the complex refractive index (n) plays an essential role in optoelectronic application. It is estimated by means of the formula:(8)in which R is the reflectance, that is determined using the absorption spectra (T is the transmission) and k is the extinction coefficient. The variation of n with wavelength is shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8 also helps to investigate the dependence of refractive index on radiation doses γ. The refractive index increased upon increasing the dose to 230 kGy. This can be due to the interaction between the incident photons and the ZnS NPs during the existence of Bisphenol A group. This trend indicates the domination of crosslinking. The γ radiation causes degradation allowing the creation of chemically active free radicals. Consequently, bonding between the ZnS NPs and the PC matrix will be formed (crosslinking). This explanation is confirmed by Shams-Eldin et al. [60], wherever; they demonstrated that the refractive index is reduced due to degradation. Comparable interpretations were also demonstrated by Ranby and Rebek [61]. According to the preceding studies, the increase in refractive index of polymeric composites can be due to the implementation of semiconductor NPs inside the polymer matrix. This is appropriate for optical applications [62,63].

The dielectric constant (ϵ′) depends on the photon energy, suggesting the creation of distinct photon-electron reactions inside the sample in this energy range. Noticeable relations on the outline of the imaginary and real parts of ϵ′ generate peak in the dielectric spectra [64,65]. The values of ϵ′ could be obtained for the pristine and irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples using the equation that relates n and k [66]:(9)

The variation of ϵ′ with wavelength is shown in Figure 9. The dielectric constant increased on raising the radiation doses γ to 230 kGy. This indicates that the γ ray raises the density of states inside the forbidden gap of the NCP samples [25].

thumbnail Fig. 8

Refractive index spectra for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

thumbnail Fig. 9

Dielectric constant spectra for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

3.3 Analysis of color changes

Figure 10 shows the transmittance spectra of the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples, in the range 370-780nm. The actual red, green and blue colors are substituted by numerical sets, X, Y and Z which are named tristimulus values [67]. The tristimulus values and chromaticity coordinates were calculated using the transmission data represented in Figure 10. Their variation with radiation doses γ is investigated in Table 2. The values of X, Y and Z increased upon increasing radiation doses γ to 230 kGy. x and y reduced with increasing dose to 230 kGy. An opposite trend was achieved by z.

The CIE LAB intercept a* shows the relationship between red (+a*) and green (–a*), whilst the intercept b* relates the yellow (+b*) and blue (–b*). L* represents lightness in CIELAB color space. An ideal white has L* of 100, and an ideal black has L* of 0. The accuracy in determining L* is ±0.05 and ±0.01 for both a* and b*. The variation of a*, b* and L* with radiation dose γ is shown in Figure 11. Both a* and b* exhibited −ve values which increased on increasing dose to 230 kGy. This signifies a reduction in green and blue colors and their tendency to red and yellow, correspondingly. Alternatively, there is an enhancement in whiteness (+L*).

The color divergence between the irradiated samples and pristine (color intensity, ΔE) was calculated by means of the CIELAB color divergence formula [42] and is shown in Figure 12 versus radiation doses γ. ΔE increases upon increasing dose to 230 kGy. The value of ΔE attains a noteworthy color difference that is satisfactory contest in marketable imitation on printing press as ΔE is larger than 5 [68,69]. The color divergences are due to the active free radicals that are created by degradation of the NCP molecules. Moreover, the active free radicals which have electrons with unpaired spin, lead to color changes [42].

thumbnail Fig. 10

The transmission spectra (370–780nm) of the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

Table 2

The tristimulus values (X, Y, Z) and chromaticity coordinates (x, y, z) of the PC/ZnS NCP samples as a function of dose.

thumbnail Fig. 11

Dependence of a*, b* and L* on the γ dose.

thumbnail Fig. 12

Dependence of ΔE on the γ dose.

4 Conclusion

In this article, ZnS@PC NCP has been effectively synthesized by casting procedure. XRD measurements indicated that the mother phase of ZnS NPs is of a size 4nm which has an effect on the optical character. The optical recital of ZnS@PC NCP confirmed the high matching among the ZnS and PC matrix. In addition, the optical character of the ZnS/PC NCP samples was affected by the applied radiation doses γ. The doses up to 230 kGy lead to the predominance of crosslinking, altering their optical characterization. This causes an enhancement to the amorphous phase in the NCP samples, hence improving their resilience and compactness. This might be deduced from the reduction of Eg conveyed by an increase in the refractive index values. Moreover, the PC/ZnS NCP has a noteworthy reaction to color change by γ irradiation as ΔE reached a noteworthy color divergence satisfying the requirements of marketable imitation on printing press. Also, the produced improvements in optical properties of the synthesized NCPs indicate their suitability for application as activate matters in optoelectronic devices.

Author contribution statement

Radiyah A. Bahareth has synthesized and characterized the NCP samples. M. ME. Barakat has made all the calculations and drawings. S.A. Nouh has written the article. S. Aldawood has reviewed the article and Aiyeshah Alhodaib has contributed in paraphrase sentences.

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Cite this article as: Radiyah A. Bahareth, Mai ME. Barakat, Aiyeshah Alhodaib, Saad Aldawood, Samir A. Nouh, Tailoring the optical properties of PC/ZnS nanocomposite by γ radiation, Eur. Phys. J. Appl. Phys. 94, 20402 (2021)

All Tables

Table 1

The optical band gap (estimated from Tauc's model and ε″ vs. ) for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

Table 2

The tristimulus values (X, Y, Z) and chromaticity coordinates (x, y, z) of the PC/ZnS NCP samples as a function of dose.

All Figures

thumbnail Fig. 1

(a) XRD chart of ZnS NPs, (b) SEM micrograph of ZnS NPs, (c) TEM micrograph of ZnS NPs.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 2

The absorbance spectra of the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 3

The plots of (α)2 vs. () for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 4

The plots of (α)0.5 vs. () for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 5

The plots of (α)2/3 vs. () for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 6

Dependence of Eg and EU on the γ dose.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 7

Optical dielectric loss for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples as a function of energy

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 8

Refractive index spectra for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 9

Dielectric constant spectra for the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 10

The transmission spectra (370–780nm) of the pristine and γ irradiated PC/ZnS NCP samples.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 11

Dependence of a*, b* and L* on the γ dose.

In the text
thumbnail Fig. 12

Dependence of ΔE on the γ dose.

In the text

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