A novel carbon-based nanostructured material, which includes carbon nanotubes (CNTs), porous carbon, nanostructured ZnO and Fe nanoparticles, has been synthetized using catalytic chemical vapour deposition (CVD) of acetylene on vertically aligned ZnO nanorods (NRs). The deposition of Fe before the CVD process induces the presence of dense CNTs in addition to the variety of nanostructures already observed on the process done on the bare NRs, which range from amorphous graphitic carbon up to nanostructured dendritic carbon films, where the NRs are partially or completely etched. The combination of scanning electron microscopy and in situ photoemission spectroscopy indicate that Fe enhances the ZnO etching, and that the CNT synthesis is favoured by the reduced Fe mobility due to the strong interaction between Fe and the NRs, and to the presence of many defects, formed during the CVD process. Our results demonstrate that the resulting new hybrid shows a higher sensitivity to ammonia gas at ambient conditions (similar to 60 ppb) than the carbon nanostructures obtained without the aid of Fe, the bare ZnO NRs, or other one-dimensional carbon nanostructures, making this system of potential interest for environmental ammonia monitoring. Finally, in view of the possible application in nanoscale optoelectronics, the photoexcited carrier behaviour in these hybrid systems has been characterized by time-resolved reflectivity measurements.
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