Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires (NWs) are excellent candidates for the fabrication of energy harvesters, mechanical sensors, and piezotronic and piezophototronic devices. In order to integrate ZnO NWs into flexible devices, low-temperature fabrication methods are required that do not damage the plastic substrate. To date, the deposition of patterned ceramic thin films on flexible substrates is a difficult task to perform under vacuum-free conditions. Printing methods to deposit functional thin films offer many advantages, such as a low cost, low temperature, high throughput, and patterning at the same stage of deposition. Among printing techniques, gravure-based techniques are among the most attractive due to their ability to produce high quality results at high speeds and perform deposition over a large area. In this paper, we explore gravure printing as a cost-effective high-quality method to deposit thin ZnO seed layers on flexible polymer substrates. For the first time, we show that by following a chemical bath deposition (CBD) process, ZnO nanowires may be grown over gravure-printed ZnO nanoparticle seed layers. Piezo-response force microscopy (PFM) reveals the presence of a homogeneous distribution of Zn-polar domains in the NWs, and, by use of the data, the piezoelectric coefficient is estimated to be close to 4 pm/V. The overall results demonstrate that gravure printing is an appropriate method to deposit seed layers at a low temperature and to undertake the direct fabrication of flexible piezoelectric transducers that are based on ZnO nanowires. This work opens the possibility of manufacturing completely vacuum-free solution-based flexible piezoelectric devices.
Keywords: flexible electronics; gravure printing; mechanical energy harvesting; nanogenerator chemical synthesis; piezoelectric sensor.