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One-dimensional (1D) ZnO nanocrystals with different morphologies and sizes including pencil-like, flower-like and needle-like, have been hydrothermally synthesized with cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide (CTAB), sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS), and polyethylene glycol (PEG) assisted. This paper focuses on the material synthesis, structure and application for NO2 sensor. Experimental results show that the sensor based on ZnO nanorods not only had high response to NO2 but also exhibited high selectivity to CO and CH4 in same gas concentration. The response was greatly enhanced by doping Cd of transition metal, the effect of Cd loading on ZnO sensing property has been discussed by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analysis.