Surface Properties of Quantum Dots for Next Generation Solar Cells

  • Hanna Radtke

Student thesis: Phd


Colloidal quantum dots (QDs) are promising candidates for the next generation of solar cells due to their tunable band gaps, solution processability and the potential for multiple exciton generation. However their stability and the reduction of surface defects are big challenges and effective surface passivation is needed. Passivations via organic ligands have been shown to be imperfect and hinder the charge transfer in devices. Three different QD systems, chosen as exemplars of different approaches to surface passivation, have been investigated with synchrotron-radiation (SR) depth- profiling X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). With this technique the chemical composition of the top few nanometres of a sample can be studied with depth.The study of CdTe QDs with and without a chloride treatment revealed the presence of stoichiometric particles prior to, and the likely coexistence of Cl atoms and organic ligands on the surfaces of the QDs after the treatment. The chloride treatment led to a better surface passivation of the QDs resulting in photoluminescence quantum yields of up to 97.2%. Shell thickness estimations using a core/shell/shell model were performed of the chloride treated sample and XPS highlighted the complexity of the structure of the sample. CdTe QDs passivated by a thick CdSe shell were investigated. Indications for an improvement of the stability of the QDs against oxidation were found. The Se:Te ratio was equivalent to a CdSe shell of 0.3-0.4 nm which was significantly smaller than intended, indicating that the butylamine ligand exchange and/or the washing of the sample reduced the thickness of the CdSe shell drastically. The third system studied was PbS QDs that were passivated with a thin CdS shell. XPS of the thoroughly washed QDs confirmed the presence of Cd in an amount equivalent to a 0.13-0.18 nm thick shell. This is thicker than the 0.05 nm shell expected from absorption spectroscopy. A study of ageing of the PbS/CdS QDs revealed that oxidation took place on the surface of the QDs. It was found that sulfur oxidised in stages leading to highly oxidised SO4^2- components. Upon long-term ageing Pb oxidised more rapidly than S, and either some Pb and/or Cd migration or some decomposition of the QDs occurred. The PbS/CdS nanoparticles were more stable than a comparable PbS colloidal quantum dot sample from the literature. The study of the PbS/CdS QDs prior to and after the second wash- ing cycle after a mercaptopropionic acid (MPA) ligand exchange revealed, amongst other things, the removal of MPA and a reduction of the Cd:Pb ratio indicating that (parts of) the QDs decomposed through the ligand exchange or the washing.In addition to the results of the nanoparticles studied some limitations of the study of colloidal QDs with SR depth-profiling XPS are discussed.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorWendy Flavell (Supervisor) & David Binks (Supervisor)


  • XPS
  • synchrotron radiation
  • quantum dot

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