Synthesis, functionalisation and characterisation of germanium nanocrystals & their applications
University College Cork
In the last two decades, semiconductor nanocrystals have been the focus of intense research due to their size dependant optical and electrical properties. Much is now known about how to control their size, shape, composition and surface chemistry, allowing fine control of their photophysical and electronic properties. However, genuine concerns have been raised regarding the heavy metal content of these materials, which is toxic even at relatively low concentrations and may limit their wide scale use. These concerns have driven the development of heavy metal free alternatives. In recent years, germanium nanocrystals (Ge NCs) have emerged as environmentally friendlier alternatives to II-VI and IV-VI semiconductor materials as they are nontoxic, biocompatible and electrochemically stable. This thesis reports the synthesis and characterisation of Ge NCs and their application as fluorescence probes for the detection of metal ions. A room-temperature method for the synthesis of size monodisperse Ge NCs within inverse micelles is reported, with well-defined core diameters that may be tuned from 3.5 to 4.5 nm. The Ge NCs are chemically passivated with amine ligands, minimising surface oxidation while rendering the NCs dispersible in a range of polar solvents. Regulation of the Ge NCs size is achieved by variation of the ammonium salts used to form the micelles. A maximum quantum yield of 20% is shown for the nanocrystals, and a transition from primarily blue to green emission is observed as the NC diameter increases from 3.5 to 4.5 nm. A polydisperse sample with a mixed emission profile is prepared and separated by centrifugation into individual sized NCs which each showed blue and green emission only, with total suppression of other emission colours. A new, efficient one step synthesis of Ge NCs with in situ passivation and straightforward purification steps is also reported. Ge NCs are formed by co-reduction of a mixture of GeCl4 and n-butyltrichlorogermane; the latter is used both as a capping ligand and a germanium source. The surface-bound layer of butyl chains both chemically passivates and stabilises the Ge NCs. Optical spectroscopy confirmed that these NCs are in the strong quantum confinement regime, with significant involvement of surface species in exciton recombination processes. The PL QY is determined to be 37 %, one of the highest values reported for organically terminated Ge NCs. A synthetic method is developed to produce size monodisperse Ge NCs with modified surface chemistries bearing carboxylic acid, acetate, amine and epoxy functional groups. The effect of these different surface terminations on the optical properties of the NCs is also studied. Comparison of the emission properties of these Ge NCs showed that the wavelength position of the PL maxima could be moved from the UV to the blue/green by choice of the appropriate surface group. We also report the application of water-soluble Ge NCs as a fluorescent sensing platform for the fast, highly selective and sensitive detection of Fe3+ ions. The luminescence quenching mechanism is confirmed by lifetime and absorbance spectroscopies, while the applicability of this assay for detection of Fe3+ in real water samples is investigated and found to satisfy the US Environmental Protection Agency requirements for Fe3+ levels in drinkable water supplies.
Germanium , Nanocrystal , Synthesis , Spectroscopy , Metal ion sensing
Carolan, D. 2015. Synthesis, functionalisation and characterisation of germanium nanocrystals & their applications. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.