ZnxCd1-xSe/C core/shell nanocrystals with 31-39 nm semiconducting core and 11-25 nm carbon shell were synthesized from solid state precursors in large scale amounts. A mixture of spherical and tripod nanostructures were obtained only in the one-step reaction (ZC3), where the Zn- and Cd-precursors were reacted simultaneously, rather than in the two step reactions (ZC1 and ZC2), where largely spherical nanostructures were observed. Rietveld analysis of the X-ray diffraction patterns of the samples prepared in three different ways, all under their autogenic pressure, reveal varying compositions of the ZnxCd1-xSe nanocrystal core, where the cubic phases with higher Zn content were dominant compared to the hexagonal phases. Carbon encapsulation offers excellent protection to the nanocrystal core and is an added advantage for biological applications. Cathodoluminescence (CL) measurements with spatially integrated and highly localized excitations show distinct peaks and sharp lines at various wavelengths, representing emissions from single nanostructures possessing different compositions, phases, and sizes. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) showed striations in the nanocrystals that are indicative of a composition modulation, and possibly reveal a phase separation and spinodal decomposition within the nanocrystals. Thermal quenching of the luminescence for both the near band-edge and defect related emissions were observed in the range 60-300 K. The measured activation energies of ∼50-70 meV were related to the presence of shallow donors or acceptors, deep level emissions, and thermal activation and quenching of the luminescence due to the thermal release of electrons from shallow donors to the conduction band or a thermal release of holes from shallow acceptors to the valence band. Spatially integrated CL spectra revealed the existence of broadening and additional components that are consistent with the presence of a composition modulation in the nanocrystals. Spatial localization of the emission in isolated single nanocrystals was studied using monochromatic CL imaging and local CL spectroscopy. CL spectra acquired by a highly localized excitation of individual nanocrystals showed energy shifts in the excitonic luminescence that are consistent with a phase separation into Zn- and Cd-rich regions. The simultaneous appearance of both structural and compositional phase separation for the synthesis of ZnxCd1-xSe nanocrystals reveals the complexity and uniqueness of these results.
- Phase separation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Materials Science
- General Engineering
- General Physics and Astronomy