The use of size and shape tunable quantum confinement nanocrystals has many potential applications for use in semiconductors, optics and sensors. The synthesis of lead sulfide (PbS) and copper indium diselenide (CuInSe₂) nanoparticles are of particular interest for use in semiconductor, optoelectronics and bio-medical applications.
The continuous synthesis of lead sulfide (PbS) and copper indium diselenide (CuInSe₂) nanocrystals was undertaken in this work. Quality colloidal nanocrystal synthesis requires three components: precursors, organic surfactants and solvents. The synthesis of the nanocrystals can be thought of as a nucleation event, followed by a subsequent growth period. Both the nucleation and growth rates were found to be dependent upon factors such as temperature, growth time, and precursor concentration. For a continuous flow system the residence time (at nucleation and growth conditions) was also found to be important. In order to separate the nucleation and growth events, injection techniques were employed to achieve rapid nucleation of nanocrystals with final size dictated by the growth temperature and/or residence time through the growth zone of the reaction system.
Experimental parameters to investigate the size, shape, and composition of synthesized nanocrystals included injection temperature, growth temperature,
residence time, and concentration of organic surfactants. Size tunability was accomplished for both PbS and CuInSe₂ nanocrystals where particle sizes less than 10 nm were achieved and the resulting nanocrystal compositions were found to be at the approximate stoichiometric ratios for both PbS and CuInSe₂. The materials used for the process tubing and pumps were found to be important as chlorinated reaction byproducts were found to react with the stainless steel tubing and pump heads. Post processing was also found to be important in order to remove any possible reaction by-products and residual precursors from the surface of synthesized nanocrystals.
When at least one dimension of the nanocrystal approaches the exciton Bohr radius, the bandgap for the nanocrystal increases. UV-VIS spectroscopy was used to optically characterize synthesized PbS nanocrystals from our continuous flow synthesis. The absorption spectra for the particles demonstrated an absorption onset showing a large blueshift compared to that of bulk PbS. The blueshift matches closely with literature reports of the quantum confinement effect that would be desired when synthesizing PbS nanoparticles at diameters that are less than the PbS exciton Bohr radius of 18 nm.