Uniformly distributed and defect-free vertically aligned ZnO nanorods (NRs) with high aspect ratio are deposited on Si by sputtering technique. X-ray diffraction along with transmission electron microscopy studies confirmed the single crystalline wurtzite structure of ZnO. Absence of wide band emission in photoluminescence spectra showed defect-free growth of ZnO NRs which was further conformed by diamagnetic behavior of the NRs. H2 sensing mechanism based on the change in physical dimension of channel is proposed to explain the fast response (∼21.6 s) and recovery times (∼27 s) of ZnO NRs/Si/ZnO NRs sensors. Proposed H2 sensor operates at low temperature (∼70 °C) unlike the existing high temperature (>150 °C) sensors. © 2014 AIP Publishing LLC.