The impact of nanotechnology on our society is getting larger every year. Electronics are becoming smaller and more powerful, the “Internet of Things” is all around us, and data generation is increasing exponentially. None of this would have been possible without the developments in nanotechnology. Crystalline semiconductor nanoparticles (nanocrystals) are one of the latest developments in the field of nanotechnology. This thesis addresses three important challenges for the transition of silicon nanocrys- tals from the lab bench to the marketplace: A better understanding of the nanocrystal synthesis was obtained, the electronic properties of the nanocrystals were characterized and tuned, and novel silicon nanocrystal inks were formed and applied using simple coating technologies. Plasma synthesis of nanocrystals has numerous advantages over traditional solution-based synthesis methods. While the formation of nanoparticles in low pressure nonthermal plasmas is well known, the heating mechanism leading to their crystallization is poorly understood. A combination of comprehensive plasma characterization with a nanoparticle heating model presented here reveals the underlying plasma physics leading to crystallization. The model predicts that the nanoparticles reach temperatures as high as 900 K in the plasma as a result of heating reactions on the nanoparticle sur- face. These temperatures are well above the gas temperature and sufficient for complete nanoparticle crystallization. Moving the field of plasma nanoparticle synthesis to atmospheric pressures is impor- tant for lowering its cost and making the process attractive for industrial applications. The heating and charging model for silicon nanoparticles was adapted in Chapter 3 to study plasmas maintained over a wide range of pressures (10 − 10^5 Pa). The model considers three collisionality regimes and determines the dominant contribution of each regime under various plasma conditions. Strong nanoparticle cooling at atmospheric pressures necessitates high plasma densities to reach temperatures required for crystallization of nanoparticles. Using experimentally determined plasma properties from the literature, the model estimates the nanoparticle temperature that is achieved during synthesis at atmospheric pressures. It was found that temperatures well above those required for crystallization can be achieved. Now that the synthesis of nanocrystals is understood, the second half of this thesis will focus on doping of the nanocrystals. The doping of semiconductor nanocrystals, which is vital for the optimization of nanocrystal-based devices, remains a challenge. Gas phase plasma approaches have been very successful in incorporating dopant atoms into nanocrystals by simply adding a dopant precursor during synthesis. However, little is known about the electronic activation of these dopants. This was investigated with field-effect transistor measurements using doped silicon nanocrystal films. It was found that, analogous to bulk silicon, boron and phosphorous electronically dope silicon nanocrystals. However, the dopant activation efficiency remains low as a result of self-purification of the dopants to the nanocrystal surface. Next the plasmonic properties of heavily doped silicon nanocrystals was explored. While the synthesis method was identical, the plasmonic behavior of phosphorus-doped and boron-doped nanocrystals was found the be significantly different. Phosphorus-doped nanocrystals exhibit a plasmon resonance immediately after synthesis, while boron-doped nanocrystals require a post-synthesis annealing or oxidation treatment. This is a result of the difference in dopant location. Phosphorus is more likely to be incorporated into the core of the nanocrystal, while the majority of boron is placed on the surface of the nanocrystal. The oxidized boron-doped particles exhibit stable plasmonic properties, and therefore this allows for the production of air-stable silicon-based plasmonic materials which is very interesting for certain applications. Finally the boron atoms were used to form a Lewis acidic nanocrystal surface chemistry allowing for the creation of ligand-less silicon nanocrystal solutions. This represents an immense step towards an abundant, non-toxic alternative to Pb and Cd-based nanocrystal technologies. The lack of long ligand chains enables the production of dense films with excellent electrical conductivity. This was demonstrated by forming uniform nanocrystal thin-films using simple and inexpensive spray coating techniques.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2015. Major: Mechanical Engineering. Advisor: Uwe Kortshagen. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 127 pages.
Synthesis and Doping of Silicon Nanocrystals for Versatile Nanocrystal Inks.
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