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Tailoring ZnSe–CdSe Colloidal Quantum Dots via Cation Exchange: From Core/Shell to Alloy Nanocrystals

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journal contribution
posted on 2013-09-24, 00:00 authored by Esther Groeneveld, Leon Witteman, Merel Lefferts, Xiaoxing Ke, Sara Bals, Gustaaf Van Tendeloo, Celso de Mello Donega
We report a study of Zn2+ by Cd2+ cation exchange (CE) in colloidal ZnSe nanocrystals (NCs). Our results reveal that CE in ZnSe NCs is a thermally activated isotropic process. The CE efficiency (i.e., fraction of Cd2+ ions originally in solution, Cdsol, that is incorporated in the ZnSe NC) increases with temperature and depends also on the Cdsol/ZnSe ratio. Interestingly, the reaction temperature can be used as a sensitive parameter to tailor both the composition and the elemental distribution profile of the product (Zn,Cd)Se NCs. At 150 °C ZnSe/CdSe core/shell hetero-NCs (HNCs) are obtained, while higher temperatures (200 and 220 °C) produce (Zn1–xCdx)Se gradient alloy NCs, with increasingly smoother gradients as the temperature increases, until homogeneous alloy NCs are obtained at T ≥ 240 °C. Remarkably, sequential heating (150 °C followed by 220 °C) leads to ZnSe/CdSe core/shell HNCs with thicker shells, rather than (Zn1–xCdx)Se gradient alloy NCs. Thermal treatment at 250 °C converts the ZnSe/CdSe core/shell HNCs into (Zn1–xCdx)Se homogeneous alloy NCs, while preserving the NC shape. A mechanism for the cation exchange in ZnSe NCs is proposed, in which fast CE takes place at the NC surface, and is followed by relatively slower thermally activated solid-state cation diffusion, which is mediated by Frenkel defects. The findings presented here demonstrate that cation exchange in colloidal ZnSe NCs provides a very sensitive tool to tailor the nature and localization regime of the electron and hole wave functions and the optoelectronic properties of colloidal ZnSe–CdSe NCs.