Finding a viable supply of clean, renewable energy is one of the most daunting challenges facing the world today. Solar cells have had limited impact in meeting this challenge because of their high cost and low power conversion efficiencies. Semiconductor nanocrystals, or quantum dots, are promising materials for use in novel solar cells because they can be processed with potentially inexpensive solution-based techniques and because they are predicted to have novel optoelectronic properties that could enable the realization of ultra-efficient solar power converters. However, there is a lack of fundamental understanding regarding the behavior of highly-excited, or "hot," charge carriers near quantum-dot and semiconductor interfaces, which is of paramount importance to the rational design of high-efficiency devices. The elucidation of these ultrafast hot electron dynamics is the central aim of this Dissertation.
I present a theoretical framework for treating the electronic interactions between quantum dots and bulk semiconductor surfaces and propose a novel experimental technique, time-resolved surface second harmonic generation (TR-SHG), for probing these interactions. I then describe a series of experimental investigations into hot electron dynamics in specific quantum-dot/semiconductor systems. A two-photon photoelectron spectroscopy (2PPE) study of the technologically-relevant ZnO(10-10) surface reveals ultrafast (sub-30fs) cooling of hot electrons in the bulk conduction band, which is due to strong electron-phonon coupling in this highly polar material. The presence of a continuum of defect states near the conduction band edge results in Fermi-level pinning and upward (n-type) band-bending at the (10-10) surface and provides an alternate route for electronic relaxation. In monolayer films of colloidal PbSe quantum dots, chemical treatment with either hydrazine or 1,2-ethanedithiol results in strong and tunable electronic coupling between neighboring quantum dots. A TR-SHG study of these electronically-coupled quantum-dot films reveals temperature-activated cooling of hot charge carriers and coherent excitation of a previously-unidentified surface optical phonon. Finally, I report the first experimental observation of ultrafast electron transfer from the higher excited states of a colloidal quantum dot (PbSe) to delocalized conduction band states of a widely-used electron acceptor (TiO2). The electric field resulting from ultrafast (<50fs) separation of charge carriers across the PbSe/TiO2(110) interface excites coherent vibration of the TiO2 surface atoms, whose collective motions can be followed in real time.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2010. Major: Chemical Engineering. Advisors: Eray S. Aydil, David J. Norris and Xiaoyang Zhu. 1 computer file (PDF): vii, 197 pages. Ill. (some col.).
Tisdale, William A..
Hot electron dynamics at semiconductor surfaces: implications for quantum dot photovoltaics..
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