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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Building Structural Complexity in Semiconductor Nanocrystals through Chemical Transformations


Methods are presented for synthesizing nanocrystal heterostructures comprised of two semiconductor materials epitaxially attached within individual nanostructures. The chemical transformation of cation exchange, where the cations within the lattice of an ionic nanocrystal are replaced with a different metal ion species, is used to alter the chemical composition at specific regions of a nanocrystal. Partial cation exchange was performed in cadmium sulfide (CdS) nanorods of well-defined size and shape to examine the spatial organization of materials within the resulting nanocrystal heterostructures. The selectivity for cation exchange to take place at different facets of the nanocrystal plays an important role in determining the resulting morphology of the binary heterostructure. The exchange of copper (I) (Cu+) cations in CdS nanorods occurs preferentially at the ends of the nanorods. Theoretical modeling of epitaxial attachments between different facets of CdS and Cu2S indicate that the selectivity for cation exchange at the ends of the nanorods is a result of the low formation energy of the interfaces produced. During silver (I) (Ag+) cation exchange in CdS nanorods, non-selective nucleation of silver sulfide (Ag2S), followed by partial phase segregation leads to significant changes in the spatial arrangement of CdS and Ag2S regions at the exchange reaction proceeds through the nanocrystal. A well-ordered striped pattern of alternating CdS and Ag2S segments is found at intermediate fractions of exchange. The forces mediating this spontaneous process are a combination of Ostwald ripening to reduce the interfacial area along with a strain-induced repulsive interaction between Ag2S segments. To elucidate why Cu+ and Ag+ cation exchange with CdS nanorods produce different morphologies, models for epitaxial attachments between various facets of CdS with Cu2S or Ag2S lattices were used to calculate interface formation energies. The formation energies indicate the favorability for interface nucleation at different facets of the nanorod and the stability of the interfaces during growth of the secondary material (Cu2S or Ag2S) within the CdS nanocrystal. The physical properties of the CdS-Ag2S and CdS-Cu2S binary nanorods are discussed in terms of the electronic structure of their components and the heterostructure morphology.

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