First Advisor

Andrea M. Goforth

Date of Publication

Summer 8-11-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Chemistry






Nanosilicon -- Synthesis, Photoluminescence, Nanostructured materials, Diatomaceous earth



Physical Description

1 online resource (xv, 183 pages)


Molecular fluorophores and semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) have been used as cellular imaging agents for biomedical research, but each class has challenges associated with their use, including poor photostability or toxicity. Silicon is a semiconductor material that is inexpensive and relatively environmental benign in comparison to heavy metal-containing quantum dots. Thus, red-emitting silicon nanoparticles (Si NPs) are desirable to prepare for cellular imaging application to be used in place of more toxic QDs. However, Si NPs currently suffer poorly understood photoinstability, and furthermore, the origin of the PL remains under debate.

This dissertation first describes the use of diatomaceous earth as a new precursor for the synthesis of photoluminescent Si NPs. Second, the stabilization of red PL from Si NPs in aqueous solution via micellar encapsulation is reported. Thirdly, red to blue PL conversion of decane-terminated Si NPs in alcohol dispersions is described and the origins (i.e., color centers) of the emission events were studied with a comprehensive characterization suite including FT-IR, UV-vis, photoluminescence excitation, and time-resolved photoluminescence spectroscopies in order to determine size or chemical changes underlying the PL color change. In this study, the red and blue PL was determined to result from intrinsic and surface states, respectively.

Lastly, we determined that the blue emission band assigned to a surface state can be introduced by base addition in originally red-emitting silicon nanoparticles, and that red PL can be restored by subsequent acid addition. This experimentally demonstrates blue PL is surface state related and can overcome the intrinsic state related excitonic recombination pathway in red PL event. Based on all the data collected and analyzed, we present a simple energy level diagram detailing the multiple origins of Si NP PL, which are related to both size and surface chemistry.


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