Colloidal synthesized semiconductor nanocrystals, or quantum dots, have shown promise as the active material in electronic and optoelectronic applications, because of their high quantum yield, narrow spectral emission band, size-tunable bandgap, chemical stability, and easy processibility. Meanwhile, it is still challenging to print patterns of nanocrystal films with desired linewidth and thickness, which is a critical step in fabrication of nanocrystal-based devices. In this thesis, a direct-write method of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals has been developed. Like other direct-write techniques, this aerosol printing method also simplifies printing process and reduces the manufacturing cost, as it avoids mask screening, lithography, and pre-patterning of the substrate. Moreover, the aerosol printing with aerodynamic lenses needs neither microscale nozzles nor sheath gases, and is able to incorporate with the vacuum systems currently used in microelectronic fabrication.
First, the synthesized colloidal nanocrystals in hexane were nebulized into compact and spherical agglomerates suspending in the carrier gas. The details about the impact dynamics of individual aerosolized nanocrystal agglomerates were investigated. As building blocks of printed nanocrystal films, the agglomerate exhibited cohesive and granular behaviors during impact deformation on the substrate. The strength of cohesion between nanocrystals in the agglomerates was adjustable by tuning the number concentration of colloidal nanocrystal dispersion.
Second, ultrathin films of nanocrystals were obtained by printing monodisperse nanocrystal agglomerates. As the result of the granular property of nanocrystal agglomerates, it was found that the thickness of deposited agglomerates strongly depended on the size of agglomerates. A single monolayer film of nanocrystals was attained by aerodynamically focusing 40-nm nanocrystal agglomerates and translating the carbon substrate at a velocity of 10 µm/s. The formation of nanocrystal films during printing was found strongly influenced by the substrate surface wettability.
Third, microscale towers, lines, and patterns were obtained by printing polydisperse nanocrystal agglomerates. The thickness and line width of the patterns were adjustable by altering experimental conditions. Micropatterns of linewidth of less than 10 µm were demonstrated. Upon exposure to near-UV illumination, the printed nanocrystals exhibited robust fluorescence in the visual, with the color depending on the diameter of the individual nanocrystals.