Characterization of Indium Phosphide Quantum Dot Growth Intermediates Using MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry

Clusters have been identified as important growth intermediates during group III–V quantum dot (QD) formation. Here we report a one-solvent protocol that integrates synthesis, purification, and mass characterization of indium phosphide (InP) QD growth mixtures. The use of matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI) mass spectrometry (MS) successfully tracks the evolution of clusters and the formation of QDs throughout the synthesis. Similar clusters are observed during the formation of large particles, suggesting that these clusters serve as a reservoir for QD formation. Combining MALDI and NMR techniques further enables us to extract extinction coefficients and construct sizing curves for cluster-free InP QDs. The use of MALDI MS opens new opportunities for characterization and mechanistic studies of small-sized air-sensitive clusters or QDs.