First Advisor

Andrea Goforth

Date of Publication

Fall 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Chemistry






Semiconductor nanoparticles, Fluorescence, Nanosilicon, Imaging systems in chemistry



Physical Description

1 online resource (xviii, 224 p.) : ill. (some col.)


This dissertation describes the synthesis and characterization of fluorescent semiconductor nanoparticles (NPs) in order to optimize their biomedical utility for imaging and sensing applications. While both direct and indirect bandgap semiconductor NPs have been studied, control over their emission properties vary. Quantum confinement (QC), which primarily controls the emission wavelength of nanosized semiconductors, dictates that as the size of semiconductor NPs decrease, the magnitude of the bandgap increases, resulting in changes in the observed emission wavelength: smaller NPs have a larger bandgap, and thus a bluer emission. However, surface, interfacial, or shell defects can act as non-radiative or radiative recombination sites for excitons formed within the NP; the latter results in emission competition with the bandgap transition, as described Chapters 1 and 2. Because the emission wavelengths of direct bandgap semiconductor NPs correlate with size according to the expectations of QC, and are stable in aqueous environments with high quantum efficiencies (quantum yield, QY), current research focuses on their potential biomedical applications. Chapter 3 describes red-emitting CdSe/ZnS quantum dots (QDs) that exhibit a concentration-dependent decrease in fluorescence intensity in response to the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT). A mechanistic study was performed to understand a 5-HT-dependent decrease in QD emission and calibration curves relating QD intensity loss to 5-HT concentration in ensemble and single QD studies were generated. Unfortunately, the known toxicity of CdSe-based QDs has generated interest in more benign semiconductor NPs to replace these QDs in biological applications, while maintaining the same degree of control over the emission color and QY. Bulk indirect bandgap semiconductors, such as Si, have low efficiency inter-band transitions, and Si NPs are known to contain radiative defects that can alter the emission wavelength from QC-based size expectations; these competitive emission pathways must be controlled in order for Si NPs to be successfully used in biological applications. In general, synthetic methods that gives precise control over both the particle size and surface termination are needed in order to produce emission controlled Si NPs. Relative to groups II and VI QDs, synthetic routes to prepare Si NPs are few in numbers, and the size vs. defect emission events are difficult to assign. Not only do these assignments vary amongst reports, but they also vary with particle size, solvent, sample age, and identities of the surface ligands. Si NPs have been prepared through two synthetic routes using the Zintl salt, sodium silicide (NaSi) and ammonium bromide (NH4Br) as precursors. Chapter 4 describes the synthesis performed in the solvent N,N,-dimethylformamide (DMF). This reaction produces blue-emitting Si NPs (5.02 ± 1.21 nm) that bear partial hydride surface termination. However, it was determined that the solvent was able to interact with the Si NP surface, and prevent subsequent functionalization. This observation was used advantageously, and Chapter 5 describes a one-pot Zintl salt metathesis of Si NPs (3.9 + 9.8 nm) performed in a bi-functional (amine or carboxylic acid) solvent ligand, where the observations indicated that the solvent ligands coordinate to the Si NP. The emission maxima of the Si NPs prepared from the Zintl salt metathesis exhibited a dependence on the excitation energy, and is indicative of emission that is influenced by QC, which likely originates from deeply oxide embedded 1-2 nm crystalline cores. The Si NPs prepared from the one-pot Zintl salt metathesis were exposed to metals salt ions of varying reduction potentials to determine the band edges by what will or will not be reduced (Chapter 6). By monitoring the emission intensity of the Si NPs, in addition to the UV-Vis of the metal ions, the band edge of Si NPs may be determined. The value of the band edge may lend insight into the origin of Si NP emission. To utilize fluorescent Si NPs for biological applications, red emission is strongly preferred. Unfortunately, when preparing aqueous Si NPs, red emission usually changes to blue, likely from the oxidation of the Si NP surface. Therefore, the red emission needs to be efficiently protected from surface oxidants. Because both increased chain lengths and steric modalities have been found to protect the emission properties of Si NPs, red-emitting, ester-functionalized Si NPs (5.51+1.35 nm) with varying chain lengths and ester termination moieties were prepared to determine the best method of preserving the observed red emission in the presence of potential alcoholic oxidants. By determining the best was to protect Si NPs emission, the red-emission from Si NPs may be preserved for biological applications.


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