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Safer-by-Design Fluorescent Nanocrystals: Metal Halide Perovskites vs Semiconductor Quantum Dots

Posted in particle physics, quantum physics, solar power, sustainability

Despite the young age of the research field, substantial progress has been made in the study of metal halide perovskite nanocrystals (HPNCs). Just as their thin-film counterparts are used for light absorption in solar cells, they are on the way to revolutionizing research on novel chromophores for light emission applications. Exciting physics arising from their peculiar structural, electronic, and excitonic properties are being discovered with breathtaking speed. Many things we have learned from the study of conventional semiconductor quantum dots (CSQDs) of II–VI (e.g., CdSe), IV–VI (e.g., PbS), and III–V (e.g., InP) compounds have to be thought over, as HPNCs behave differently. This Feature Article compares both families of nanocrystals and then focuses on approaches for substituting toxic heavy metals without sacrificing the unique optical properties as well as on surface coating strategies for enhancing the long-term stability.

In the early 1980s the quest for novel photocatalysts, fueled by the oil crisis in the preceding decade, led to the discovery of semiconductor quantum dots. Pioneering works by Efros, Brus, and Henglein showed both experimentally and theoretically that the reduction of size of semiconductor particles (e.g., CdS) down to the nanometer range induces a significant change in their band gap energy.(1−3) The underlying quantum confinement effect, occurring when the nanocrystal size is (significantly) smaller than twice the exciton Bohr radius of the semiconductor material (Table 1), leads to an increase, scaling with 1/r, of the band gap energy. It also gives rise to the appearance of discrete energy levels at the place of continuous valence and conduction energy bands. In the same period Ekimov as well as Itoh and co-workers observed quantum confinement in small CuCl crystallites embedded in a glass or a NaCl matrix.

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