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Breaking through the Size Control Dilemma of Silver Chalcogenide Quantum Dots via Trialkylphosphine-Induced Ripening: Leading to Ag2Te Emitting from 950 to 2100 nm

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posted on 06.08.2021, 04:43 by Zhen-Ya Liu, An-An Liu, Haohao Fu, Qing-Yuan Cheng, Ming-Yu Zhang, Man-Man Pan, Li-Ping Liu, Meng-Yao Luo, Bo Tang, Wei Zhao, Juan Kong, Xueguang Shao, Dai-Wen Pang
Ag2Te is one of the most promising semiconductors with a narrow band gap and low toxicity; however, it remains a challenge to tune the emission of Ag2Te quantum dots (QDs) precisely and continuously in a wide range. Herein, Ag2Te QDs emitting from 950 to 2100 nm have been synthesized via trialkylphosphine-controlled growth. Trialkylphosphine has been found to induce the dissolution of small-sized Ag2Te QDs due to its stronger ability to coordinate to the Ag ion than that of 1-octanethiol, predicated by the density functional theory. By controlling this dissolution effect, the monomer supply kinetics can be regulated, achieving precise size control of Ag2Te QDs. This synthetic strategy results in state-of-the-art silver-based QDs with emission tunability. Only by taking advantage of such an ultrawide emission has the sizing curve of Ag2Te been obtained. Moreover, the absolute photoluminescence quantum yield of Ag2Te QDs can reach 12.0% due to their well-passivated Ag-enriched surface with a density of 5.0 ligands/nm2, facilitating noninvasive in vivo fluorescence imaging. The high brightness in the long-wavelength near-infrared (NIR) region makes the cerebral vasculature and the tiny vessel with a width of only 60 μm clearly discriminable. This work reveals a nonclassical growth mechanism of Ag2Te QDs, providing new insight into precisely controlling the size and corresponding photoluminescence properties of semiconductor nanocrystals. The ultrasmall, low-toxicity, emission-tunable, and bright NIR-II Ag2Te QDs synthesized in this work offer a tremendous promise for multicolor and deep-tissue in vivo fluorescence imaging.