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Bright lights of purity
Date:1/31/2012

esized from colloids - particles suspended in solution. As an alternative, Alivisatos and his research group developed a new solution-based synthesis technique in which nanocrystals are chemically transformed by exchanging or replacing all of the cations in the crystal lattice with another type of cation. This cation-exchange technique makes it possible to produce new types of core/shell nanocrystals that are inaccessible through conventional synthesis. Core/shell nanocrystals are heterostructures in which one type of semiconductor is enclosed within another, for example, a cadmium selenide (CdSe) core and a cadmium sulfide (CdS) shell.

"While holding promise for the simple and inexpensive fabrication of multicomponent nanocrystals, the cation-exchange technique has yielded quantum dots and nanorods that perform poorly in optical and electronic devices," says Alivisatos, a world authority on nanocrystal synthesis who holds a joint appointment with the University of California (UC) Berkeley, where he is the Larry and Diane Bock professor of Nanotechnology.

As Jain tells the story, he was in the process of disposing of CdSe/CuS nanocrystals in solution that were six months old when out of habit he tested the nanocrystals under ultraviolet light. To his surprise he observed significant luminescence. Subsequent spectral measurements and comparing the new data to the old showed that the luminescence of the nanocrystals had increased by at least sevenfold.

"It was an accidental finding and very exciting," Jain says, "but since no one wants to wait six months for their samples to become high quality I decided to heat the nanocrystals to speed up whatever process was causing their luminescence to increase."

Jain and the team suspected and subsequent study confirmed that impurities original cations that end up being left behind in the crystal lattice during the exchange process - were the culprit.

"Even a few cation impurities
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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