Photophysical Properties of Manganese Doped Semiconductor Nanocrystals
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Electronic and optical properties of semiconducting nanocrystals, that can be engineered and manipulated by various ways like varying size, shape, composition, structure, has been a subject of intense research for more than last two decades. The size dependency of these properties in semiconductor nanocrystals is direct manifestation of the quantum confinement eﬀect. Study of electronic and optical properties in smaller dimensions provides a platform to understand the evolution of fundamental bulk properties in the semiconductors, often leading to realization and exploration of entirely new and novel properties. Not only of fundamental interests, the semiconductor nanocrystals are also shown to have great technological implications in diverse areas. Besides size tunable properties, introduction of impurities, like transition metal ions, gives rise to new functionalities in the semicon-ductor nanocrystals. These materials, termed as doped semiconductor nanocrystals, have been the subject of great interest, mainly due to the their interesting optical properties. Among diﬀerent transition metal doped semiconductor nanocrystals, manganese doped systems have drawn a lot on attention due to their certain advantages over other dopants. One of the major advantages of Mn doped semiconductor nanocrystals is that they do not suﬀer from the problem of self-absorption of emission, which quite often, is consid-ered detrimental in their undoped counterparts. The doped nanocrystals are known to produce a characteristic yellow-orange emission upon photoexcitation of the host that is relatively insensitive to the surface degradation of the host. This emission, originating from an atomic d-d transition of Mn2+ ions, has been a subject of extensive research in the recent past. In spite of the spin forbidden nature of the specific d-d transition, namely 6A1 −4 T1, these doped nanocrystals yield intense phosphorescence. However, one major drawback of utilizing this system for a wide range application has been the substantial inability of the community to tune the emission color of Mn-doped systems in spite of an intense eﬀort over the years; the relative constancy of the emission color in these systems has been attributed to the essentially atomic nature of the optical transition involving localized Mn d levels. Interestingly, however, the Mn emission has a very broad spectral line-width in spite of its atomic-like origin. While the long (∼ 1 ms) emission life-time of the de-excitation process is well-studied and understood in terms of the spin and orbitally forbidden nature of the transition, there is little known concerning the process of energy transfer to the Mn from the host in the excitation step. In this thesis, we have studied the ultrafast dynamic processes involved in Mn emission and addressed the issues related to its tunability and spectral purity. Chapter 1 provides a brief introduction to the fundamental concepts relevant to the studies carried out in the subsequent chapters of this thesis. This chapter is started with a small preview of the nanomaterials in general, followed by a discussion on semiconducting nanomaterials, evolution of their electronic structure with dimensions and size as well as the eﬀect of quantum confinement on their optical properties. As all the semiconducting nanomaterials studied in the thesis are synthesized via colloidal synthesis routes, a separate section is devoted on colloidal semiconducting nanomaterials, describing various ways of modifying or tuning their optical properties. This is followed by an introduction to the important class of materials “doped semiconductor nanocrystals”. With a general overview and brief history of these materials, we proceed to discuss about various aspects of manganese doped semiconductor nanocrystals in great details, highlighting the origin of the manganese emission and the associated carrier dynamics as well as diﬀerent reported synthetic strategies to prepare these materials. The chapter is closed with the open questions related to manganese doped semiconductor nanocrystals and the scope of the present work. Chapter 2 describes diﬀerent experimental and theoretical methods that have been employed to carry out diﬀerent studies presented in the thesis. It includes common experimental techniques like UV-Vis absorption spectroscopy, steady-state and time-resolved photoluminescence spectroscopy used for optical measurements, X-ray diﬀraction, trans-mission electron microscopy and atomic absorption spectroscopy used for structural and elemental analysis. Experimental tools to perform special studies like transient absorption and single nanocrystal spectroscopy are also discussed. Finally, theoretical fitting method used to analyse various spectral data has been discussed briefly. Chapter 3 deals with the dynamic processes involved in the photoexcitation and emission in manganese doped semiconductor nanocrystals. For this study, Mn doped ZnCdS alloyed nanocrystal has been chosen as a model system. There are various radiative and nonrdiative recombination pathways of the photogenerated carriers and they often compete with each other. We have studied the dynamics of all possible pathways of carrier relaxation, viz. excitonic recombination, surface state emission and Mn d-d transition. The main highlight of this chapter is the determination of the time-scale to populate surface states and the Mn d-states after the photoexcitation of the host. Employing femtosecond pump-probe based transient absorption study we have shown that the Mn dopant states are populated within sub-picosecond of the host excitation, while it takes a few picoseconds to populate the surface states. Keeping in mind the typical life-time of the excitonic emission (∼ a few ns), the ultra-fast process of energy transfer from the host to the Mn ions explains why the presence of Mn dopant ions quenches the excitonic as well as the surface state emissions so eﬃciently. Chapter 4 presents a study of manganese emission in ZnS nanocrystals of diﬀerent sizes. By varying the size of the ZnS host nanocrystal, we show that one can tune the Mn emission over a limited range. In particular, with a decrease in host size, the Mn emission has been observed to red-shift. We have attributed this shift in Mn emission to the change in the ratio of surface to bulk dopant ions with the variation of the host size, noting that the strength of the ligand field at the Mn site should depend on the position of the Mn ion relative to the surface due to a systematic lattice relaxation in such nanocrystals. The ligand field aﬀects the emission wavelength directly by controlling the splitting of the t2 and e levels of Mn2+ ions. The surface dopant ions experience a strong ligand field due to distorted tetrahedral environment which leads to larger splitting of these t2 and e states. We further corroborated these results by performing doping concentration dependent emission and life-time studies. In Chapter 5 addresses two fundamental challenges related to manganese photolumines-cence, namely the lack of a substantial emission tunability and presence of a very broad spectral width (∼ 180-270 meV). The large spectral width is incompatible with atomic-like manganese 4T1 −6 A1 transition. On the other hand, if this emission is atomic in nature, it should be relatively unaﬀected by the nature of the host, though it can be manipulated to some extent as discussed in Chapter 3. The lack of Mn emission tunability and spectral purity together seriously limit the usefulness of Mn doped semiconductor nanocrystals. To understand why the Mn emission tunability range is very limited (typically 565-630 nm) and to understand the true nature of this emission, we carried out single nanocrystal imaging and spectroscopy on Mn doped ZnCdS alloyed nanocrystals. This study reveals that Mn emission, in fact, can vary over a much wider range (∼ 370 meV) and exhibits widths substantially lower (∼ 60-75 meV) than reported so far. We explained the occur-rence of Mn emission in this broad spectral range in terms of the possibility of a large number of symmetry inequivalent sites resulting from random substitution of Cd and Zn ions that leads to diﬀering extent of ligand field contributions towards the splitting of Mn d-levels. The broad Mn emission observed in ensemble-averaged measurements is the result of contribution from Mn ions at diﬀerent sites of varying ligand field strengths inside the NC. Chapter 6 presents a synthetic strategy to strain-engineer a nanocrystal host lattice for a controlled tuning of the ligand field eﬀect of the doped Mn sites. It is realized synthesizing a strained quantum dot system with the structure ZnSe/CdSe/ZnSe. A larger lattice parameter of CdSe compared to that of ZnSe causes a strain field that is maximum near the interface, gradually decreasing towards the surface. We control the positioning of Mn dopant ions at diﬀerent distances from the interface, thereby doping Mn at diﬀerent predetermined strain fields. With the help of this strain engineering, we are able to tune Mn emission across the entire range of the visible spectrum. This strain induced tuning of Mn emission is accompanied by life-times that is dependent on the emission energy which has been explained in terms of perturbation eﬀect on the Mn center due to the strain generated inside the quantum dot. The spectacular emission tuning has been explained by modelling the quantum dot system as an elastic continuum containing three distinct layers under hydrostatic pressure. From this modelling, we found that the strain is max-imum at the interface and decreases continuously as one goes away from the interface. We also show that the Mn emission maximum red shifts with increasing distance of the dopants from the maximum strained region. In summary, we have performed a study on the photophysical processes in manganese doped semiconductor nanocrystals. We have emphasized in understanding of diﬀerent dynamic processes associated with the manganese emission and tried to understand the true nature of manganese emission in a nanocrystal. This study has brought out some new aspects of manganese emission and opened up possibilities to tune and control manganese emission by proper design of the host material.
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