Quantum Yield Regeneration: Influence of Neutral Ligand Binding on Photophysical Properties in Colloidal Core/Shell Quantum Dots


This article describes an experiment designed to identify the role of specific molecular ligands in maintaining the high photoluminescence (PL) quantum yield (QY) observed in as-synthesized CdSe/CdZnS and CdSe/CdS quantum dots (QDs). Although it has been possible for many years to prepare core/shell quantum dots with near-unity quantum yield through high-temperature colloidal synthesis, purification of such colloidal particles is frequently accompanied by a reduction in quantum yield. Here, a recently established gel permeation chromatography (GPC) technique is used to remove weakly associated ligands without a change in solvent: a decrease in ensemble QY and average PL lifetime is observed. Minor components of the initial mixture that were removed by GPC are then added separately to purified QD samples to determine whether reintroduction of these components can restore the photophysical properties of the initial sample. We show that among these putative ligands trioctylphosphine and cadmium oleate can regenerate the initial high QY of all samples, but only the “L-type” ligands (trioctyphosphine and oleylamine) can restore the QY without changing the shapes of the optical spectra. On the basis of the PL decay analysis, we confirm that quenching in GPC-purified samples and regeneration in ligand-introduced samples are associated chiefly with changes in the relative population fraction of QDs with different decay rates. The reversibility of the QY regeneration process has also been studied; the introduction and removal of trioctylphosphine and oleylamine tend to be reversible, while cadmium oleate is not. Finally, isothermal titration calorimetry has been used to study the relationship between the binding strength of the neutral ligands to the surface and photophysical property changes in QD samples to which they are added

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