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ISSN : 1225-0562(Print)
ISSN : 2287-7258(Online)
Korean Journal of Materials Research Vol.30 No.10 pp.502-508
DOI : https://doi.org/10.3740/MRSK.2020.30.10.502

Effect of Low-Temperature Sintering on Electrical Properties and Aging Behavior of ZVMNBCD Varistor Ceramics

Choon-Woo Nahm†
Department of Electrical Engineering, Dongeui University, Busan 47340, Republic of Korea
Corresponding author E-Mail : cwnahm@deu.ac.kr (C.-W. Nahm, Dongeui Univ.)
July 23, 2020 September 14, 2020 September 14, 2020

Abstract


This paper focuses on the electrical properties and stability against DC accelerated aging stress of ZnO-V2O5-MnO2- Nb2O5-Bi2O3-Co3O4-Dy2O3 (ZVMNBCD) varistor ceramics sintered at 850 - 925 °C. With the increase of sintering temperature, the average grain size increases from 4.4 to 11.8 mm, and the density of the sintered pellets decreases from 5.53 to 5.40 g/ cm3 due to the volatility of V2O5, which has a low melting point. The breakdown field abruptly decreases from 8016 to 1,715 V/cm with the increase of the sintering temperature. The maximum non-ohmic coefficient (59) is obtained when the sample is sintered at 875 °C. The samples sintered at below 900 °C exhibit a relatively low leakage current, less than 60 mA/cm2. The apparent dielectric constant increases due to the increase of the average grain size with the increase of the sintering temperature. The change tendency of dissipation factor at 1 kHz according to the sintering temperature coincides with the tendency of the leakage current. In terms of stability, the samples sintered at 900 °C exhibit both high non-ohmic coefficient (45) and excellent stability, 0.8% in ΔEB/EB and -0.7% in Δα/α after application of DC accelerated aging stress (0.85 EB/85 °C/24 h).



초록


    © Materials Research Society of Korea. All rights reserved.

    This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

    1. Introduction

    Zinc oxide semiconducting ceramics are mainly applied to varistor. This is a smart and attractive electro-ceramic device, which meets a high electrical energy such as electrostatic discharge, transient overvoltage from inductive coil, and lightning. Zinc oxide is an n-type oxide semiconductor due to excess zinc, when compared with oxygen. It exhibits ohmic characteristics in current–voltage relation, whether a single crystalline or a polycrystalline. However, zinc oxide polycrystalline doped with specified minor additives may exhibit non-ohmic characteristics.1,2) Zinc oxide varistor ceramics are made by sintering zinc oxide powder doped with minor additives such as Bi2O3 or Pr6O11, CoO, MnO, Cr2O3, etc.1,3) As a result, zinc oxide varistor ceramics are random multi-junction devices, unlike single pn-junction for Si. For this reason, these possess a much higher energy absorption capability than the back-to back Zener diode. Owing to high non-ohmicity and high surge absorption, zinc oxide varistor ceramics are extensively used in the field of transient voltage protection systems.4,5)

    Existing commercial zinc oxide varistor ceramics doped with Bi2O3 or Pr6O11 cannot use a silver as an innerelectrode in multilayered components because they are sintered at a temperature as high as 1,000 °C.1,6) Therefore, they have no choice but to use expensive refractory metal Pd or Pt as an internal electrode. New varistor ceramics based on silver as an internal electrode can be Zn-V system.7,8) This system has a big advantage, which can be sintered at a relatively low temperature below 900 °C.9-12)

    Although many researches for Zn-V system until now, the stability against DC accelerated aging stress for nonohmic properties is not markedly improved. Some of them exhibited a high stability,13-15) but not enough to use. We introduce a new varistor ceramic composition ZnO-V2O5-MnO2-Nb2O5-Bi2O3-Co3O4-Dy2O3 (ZVMNBCD) exhibiting a much higher stability than previously reported.15) This system exhibited a surprising high stability for varistor properties as well as high non-ohmic properties.

    2. Experimental Procedure

    2.1 Specimen Preparation

    Varistor samples for test were manufactured by conventional ceramic processing such as weighing, milling and mixing, drying, granulating, pressing, and sintering. Reagent-grade raw materials were prepared in the molar proportion of 96.75 ZnO + 0.5 V2O5 + 2.0 MnO2 + 0.1 Nb2O5 + 0.05 Bi2O3 + 0.5 Co3O4 + 0.1 Dy2O3 (ZVMNBCD). The weighted powders were ball mixed with acetone into a polypropylene bottle for 24 h. The obtained slurry was dried at 120 °C for 12 h. The dried slurry was blended with acetone and polyvinyl butyral binder (0.8 wt% of powder weight) in a beaker using a magnetic stirring bar. Again the slurry was dried at 120 °C for 24 h. To use the starting powder, the mixture was pulverized and then sieved through a 100-mesh screen. The granulated powder was pressed into disc pellets with a dimension of 10 mm in diameter and 1.5 mm in thickness at a pressure of 1,000 kg/cm2. The pellets were sintered at 850, 875, 900 and 925 °C in air for 3 h. The sintered pellets were lapped and polished by 1.0 mm thickness using a lapping machine. The final size of the pellets was 8 mm diameter and 1.0 mm thickness. Both faces of the pellets were painted with conductive silver paste using screen-printing technique, and then heated at 550 °C for 10 min. The lead wire was soldered on both electrodes and the samples were packaged by dipping it into a thermoplastic resin powder.

    2.2 Microstructure Analysis

    The sides of the samples were lapped and ground with SiC paper, and then polished with alumina powders. The polished samples were chemically etched at HClO4–H2O solution (1:1000, v/v) for 25 s at 25 °C. The microstructure of the surface was examined by a field emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM, Quanta 200, FEI, Brno, Czech). The average grain size (d) was determined by the lineal intercept method such as the following expression, d = 1.56 L/MN, where L is the random line length on the micrograph, M is the magnification of the micrograph, and N is the number of the grain boundaries intercepted by the lines.16) The crystalline phases were identified by X-ray diffractometer (XRD, X'pert-PRO MPD, Panalytical, Almelo, Netherlands) with CuKa radiation. The density (ρ) of the sintered pellets was measured using a density determination kit (238490) attached to balance (AG 245, Mettler Toledo International Inc., Switzerland).

    2.3 Electrical and Dielectric Measurement

    The electric field-current density (E-J) characteristics were measured using a high voltage source unit (Keithley 237, USA). The breakdown field (EB) was measured at 1.0 mA/cm2 and the leakage current density (JL) was measured at 0.8 EB. The non-ohmic coefficient (α) was determined through the expression, α = 1/(logE2–logE1), where E1 and E2 are the electric fields corresponding to J1=1.0 mA/cm2 and J2 =10 mA/cm2, respectively.

    The dielectric characteristics, such as the apparent dielectric constant (εAPP') and dissipation factor (tanδ) were measured in the range of 100 Hz-2 MHz using a RLC meter (QuadTech 7600, USA).

    2.4 Aging Stress Measurement

    The DC-accelerated aging stress test performed under the stress state of 0.85 EB/85 °C/24 h. The leakage current was monitored at intervals of 1 min during application of a stress using a high voltage source-measure unit (Keithley 237, USA). After application of a stress, the EJ characteristics were measured at room temperature.

    3. Results and Discussion

    Fig. 1 shows the SEM micrographs of the samples sintered at different temperatures. It can be seen that the microstructure is featured by homogeneous grains and clear grain boundaries. The behavior of the average grain size (d) and the density (ρ) of the sintered pellets as a function of sintering temperature was indicated graphically in Fig. 2. The average grain size of the samples increased from 4.4 to 11.8 mm with the increase of sintering temperature. The sintering temperature had a great effect on the grain size changes, despite small change. Probably, abrupt growth of ZnO grains is attributed to a rich liquid phase related to V2O5 having a low melting point (690 °C). The sintered density decreased from 5.53 to 5.40 g/cm3 (theoretical density = 5.78 g/cm3 in ZnO) with the increase of sintering temperature. The decrease of the sintered density is assumed to be a result of the volatility of V2O5 with low melting point (690 °C). The detailed microstructure parameters are summarized in Table 1.

    Fig. 3 shows the XRD patterns of the samples sintered at different temperatures. These patterns revealed the presence of Zn3(VO4)2, ZnV2O4, and DyVO4 as minor secondary phases, in addition to a major phase of bulk ZnO. The secondary phases were produced by the following chemical reaction.

    3ZnO+V 2 O 5 Zn 3 (VO 4 ) 2 ZnO+V 2 O 5 ZnV 2 O 4 +O 2 Dy 2 O 3 + V 2 O 5 2DyVO 4

    The peak of ZnV2O4 increased gradually when the sintering temperature decreased. The ZnV2O4 may have a significant effect on electrical properties and aging characteristics. This means that ZnV2O4 volatiles with the increase of sintering temperature. By contrast, it can be seen that DyVO4 is considerably stable phase in the small change of sintering temperature.

    Fig. 4 shows the electric field-current density (E-J) characteristics of the samples sintered at different temperatures. The varistor properties are characterized by the non-ohmic E-J characteristics. In other words, the EJ characteristics show the non-conduction characteristics due to very high resistance below breakdown field and conduction characteristics due to very low resistance above breakdown field. The sharp knee of the curves between the two characteristics will lead to highly nonohmic properties. However, seemingly, there is no salient difference in the knee of curves. It can be seen from curve shapes that the sintering temperature affects nonohmic properties. The breakdown field (EB) abruptly decreased from 8016 to 1715 V/cm with the increase of sintering temperature, despite small change of sintering temperature. The behavior of EB in accordance with the sintering temperature can be explained by the grain size: EB = vgb/d, where vgb is the breakdown voltage per grain boundaries and d is the grain size. EB is directly determined by d and vgb value. Among them, d value absolutely affects the EB. Therefore, the decrease of EB with the increase of sintering temperature is assumed to be result of the increase of the average ZnO grain size.

    The non-ohmic coefficient (a) and the leakage current density (JL) as a function of sintering temperature was indicated graphically in Fig. 5. α value pronouncedly increased from 44 to 59 until the sintering temperature is 875 °C. However, when the sintering temperature exceeded 875 °C, a value decreased to 45 at 900 °C and 38 at 925 °C. A maximum non-ohmic coefficient (α = 59) was obtained at 875 °C. The behavior of α according to sintering temperature is related to the variation of the Schottky barrier height formed by the electronic states at the grain boundaries. The sintering temperature will affect the density of interface states at the grain boundary. As a result, this has a sever effect on a. On the other hand, the leakage current density (JL) decreased from 39 to 36.2 μA/cm2 until the sintering temperature is 875 °C. JL is a very low and remarkable value, when compared with ZnO-V2O5-based varistors reported until now.7-15) When the sintering temperature exceeded 875 °C, JL increased to 100.6 mA/cm2 at 925 °C. On the while, this system revealed a relatively low leakage current. The detailed EJ characteristic parameters are summarized in Table 1.

    Fig. 6(a) shows the apparent dielectric constant (εAPP') of the samples sintered at different temperatures. When the frequency increased, εAPP' decreased due to the decrease of the number of dipole, which can follow to test frequency. εAPP' increased with the increase of sintering temperature in the range of overall frequency. This depends on the average grain size and depletion layer width, as the following equation, εAPP' = εg(d/t), where εg is the dielectric constant of ZnO (8.5), d is the average grain size, and t is the depletion layer width. When the sintering temperature increased, the increase of εAPP' is assumed to be a result of the increase of the average grain size. The dielectric constant (εAPP') as a function of sintering temperature was indicated graphically in Fig. 7. εAPP' at 1 kHz linearly increased from 330.6 to 1391.4 at with the increase of sintering temperature. On the other hand, Fig. 6(b) shows the dissipation factor (tanδ) of the samples sintered at different temperatures. When the frequency increased, tanδ decreased until the vicinity of 10 kHz for all samples and exhibited a dielectric dispersion peak in the vicinity of 200 kHz, and thereafter again decreased. This behavior of tanδ is almost identical for all samples. The dissipation factor (tanδ) as a function of sintering temperature was indicated graphically in Fig. 7. tanδ at 1 kHz value decreased from 0.211 to 0.203 until the sintering temperature is 875 °C. However, when the sintering temperature exceeded 875 °C, tanδ increased to 0.238 at 925 °C. The behavior of tanδ (1 kHz) according to the sintering temperature exactly coincided with the behavior of leakage current. The leakage current is one of the factors, which affect tanδ. The detailed dielectric characteristic parameters are summarized in Table 1.

    Fig. 8 shows the leakage current (IL) behavior of the samples during DC accelerated aging stress of 0.85 EB/ 85 °C/24 h. The behavior of leakage current (IL) can be divided into greatly 2 groups: the samples sintered at 850 °C, and the samples sintered at 875 - 925 °C. IL of the samples sintered at 850 °C abruptly increased and thereafter abruptly decreased within short time. When the stress time increased, IL was almost constant. By contrast, IL of the samples sintered at 875 - 925 °C gradually increased and thereafter was almost constant, when the stress time increased.

    Fig. 9 compares the variation of E-J characteristics after application of a stress with the initial E-J characteristics of the samples sintered at different temperatures. The stability of the samples is secured when the variation of E-J characteristic curves after application of a stress is small, when compared with initial curves. Seemingly, the E-J curves of the samples sintered at 850 and 875 °C have greatly changed in the vicinity of knee. The sample sintered at 925 °C exhibited the largest variation in E-J characteristics after application of a stress. By contrast, the sample sintered at 900 °C exhibited the highest stability without the variation of E-J characteristics after application of a stress. It can be seen that the variation of E-J curves after stress is strongly affected by sintering temperature.

    Fig. 10(a) compares EB after application of a stress with initial values of the samples sintered at different temperatures. The decrease rate in EB after application of a stress decreased in the order of 925, 850, 875, and 900 °C. The samples sintered at 850 °C and 875 °C exhibited the variation rates (ΔEB/EB = -6 %) within 10% after application of a stress. The sample sintered at 925 °C exhibited the highest variation rate of EB, reaching ΔEB/EB = -21.7 %. By contrast, ΔEB/EB of the sample sintered at 900 °C was only 0.8 %. On the other hand, Fig. 10(b) compares a after application of a stress with initial values of the samples sintered at different temperatures. The samples sintered at 850, 875, and 925 °C exhibited a large decrease of α, reaching Δα/α > -50 % after application of a stress. In particular, the samples sintered at 925 °C exhibited bad non-ohmic properties, in which a is only 8 after application a stress. By contrast, the sample sintered at 900 °C, after application of a stress, exhibited the same a as initial a (45). The variation tendency of a value after stress exhibited the same tendency as that of EB with the increase of sintering temperature. On the whole, JL value after application a stress considerably increased, when compared with EB and a. The variation rates of the breakdown field (ΔEB/ EB), of the non-ohmic coefficient (Δα/α), and of the leakage current density (ΔJL/JL) after application of a stress for the samples sintered at different temperatures are summarized in Table 2.

    4. Conclusions

    The microstructure, electrical and dielectric properties, and aging behavior of ZnO-V2O5-MnO2-Nb2O5-Bi2O3- Co3O4-Dy2O3 (ZVMNBCD) varistor ceramics were investigated at different sintering temperatures of 850 - 925 °C. The sintered density decreased due to the volatility of V-species related to V2O5 and the average grain size increased due to the generation of liquid phase with the increase of sintering temperature. The non-ohmic coefficient exhibited a maximum value when the sintering temperature is 875 °C. Further elevated temperatures caused it to decrease. The most important issue in this paper is stability against DC accelerated aging stress. ZVMNBCD varistor ceramics sintered at 900C exhibited an excellent stability as well as high non-ohmic coefficient (45), when compared with Zn-V-based varistor ceramics reported until now. Therefore, it is expected that ZVMNBCD varistor ceramics will be new hope to develop the advanced Zn- V-based varistor ceramics.

    Author Information

    남춘우

    동의대학교 전기공학과 교수

    Figure

    MRSK-30-10-502_F1.gif

    SEM micrographs of the samples sintered at different temperatures: (a) 850 °C, (b) 875 °C, (c) 900 °C, and (d) 925 °C.

    MRSK-30-10-502_F2.gif

    XRD patterns of the samples sintered at different temperatures: (a) 850 °C, (b) 875 °C, (c) 900 °C, and (d) 925 °C.

    MRSK-30-10-502_F3.gif

    Average grain size and sintered density as a function of sintering temperature.

    MRSK-30-10-502_F4.gif

    E-J characteristics of the samples sintered at different temperatures.

    MRSK-30-10-502_F5.gif

    Non-ohmic coefficient and leakage current density as a function of sintering temperature.

    MRSK-30-10-502_F6.gif

    Dielectric characteristics of the samples sintered at different temperatures.

    MRSK-30-10-502_F7.gif

    dielectric constant (a) and dissipation factor (b) as a function of sintering temperature.

    MRSK-30-10-502_F8.gif

    Leakage current behavior during DC accelerated aging stress of the samples sintered at different temperatures.

    MRSK-30-10-502_F9.gif

    E-J characteristic behavior before and after DC accelerated aging stress of the samples sintered at different temperatures.

    MRSK-30-10-502_F10.gif

    Breakdown field (a) and non-ohmic coefficient (b) before and after DC-accelerated aging stress of the samples sintered at different temperatures.

    Table

    Microstructure, electrical and dielectric parameters of the samples sintered at different temperatures.

    E-J characteristic parameters before and after DC-accelerated aging stress of the samples sintered at different temperatures.

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