Rice's study, which was conducted under the auspices of the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN), is published online and slated to appear in the October issue of the journal Nanotechnology.
"CBEN started to undertake some exploratory work more than a year ago on the scale-up issues of quantum dot manufacture, but the solvents turned out to be so expensive that we just couldn't afford to run more than a few large-reactor experiments," said the study's lead author, Michael Wong, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry. "That was a great reality check, and it made us look at the problem of solvent cost sooner rather than later."
Quantum dots typically cost more than $2,000 per gram from commercial sources, and pricey solvents like octadecene, or ODE - the least expensive solvent used in quantum dot preparation today - account for about 90 percent costs of raw materials.
Heat-transfer fluids - stable, heat-resistant oils that are used to move heat between processing units at chemical plants - can cost up to seven times less than ODE. Replacing ODE with the heat-transfer fluid Dowtherm A, for example, reduces the overall materials cost of making quantum dots by about 80 percent.
Quantum dots are tiny crystals of semiconducting materials - cadmium selenide or CdSe is the most popular flavor - that measure just a few nanometers in diameter. Most of the commercial possibilities discussed for quantum dots - bioimaging, color displays, lasers, etc. - relate to their size-controlled fluorescence. For example, CdSe quantum dots have the