Mesoporous Al-doped ZnO thin films incorporated with gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) were synthesized using a sol-gel and evaporation-induced self-assembly process. In this study, the complementary effects of Au NP incorporation and Al doping on the thermoelectric properties of mesoporous ZnO thin films were analysed. The incorporated Au NPs induced an increase in electrical conductivity but a detriment in the pore arrangement of the mesoporous ZnO thin film, which was accompanied by a decrease in porosity. However, the addition of the Al dopant minimized the pore structural collapse because of the inhibition of the grain growth in the ZnO skeletal structure, resulting in the enhancement of the pore arrangement and porosity. When the Au NPs and Al dopant were added at the same time, the degradation in the pore structure was minimized and the electrical conductivity was effectively increased, but the absolute value of the Seebeck coefficient was decreased. However, as a result, the thermoelectric power factor was increased by 2.4 times compared to that of the pristine mesoporous ZnO thin film. It was found that co-introducing the Au NPs and Al doping to the mesoporous ZnO structure was effective in preserving the pore structure and increasing the electric conductivity, thereby enhancing the thermoelectric property of the mesoporous ZnO thin film.
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