By using a laboratory microwave reactor to promote the synthesis of the widely used nanomaterials, the recently published* NIST process avoids a problematic step in the conventional approach to making quantum dots, resulting in brighter, more stable dots.
Quantum dots are specially engineered nanoscale crystals of semiconductor compounds. The name comes from the fact that their infinitesimal size enables a quantum electronics effect that causes the crystals to fluoresce brilliantly at specific, sharply defined colors.
Bright, stable, tiny and tunable across a broad spectrum of colors, quantum dots that are engineered to attach themselves to particular proteins have become a popular research tool in areas such as cancer research for detecting, labeling and tracking specific biomarkers and cells.
Making good quantum dots for biological research is complex. First a semiconductor compound—typically a mixture of cadmium and selenium—must be induced to crystallize into discrete nanocrystals of just the right size. Cadmium is toxic, and the compound also can oxidize easily (ruining the effect), so the nanocrystals must be encapsulated in a protective shell such as zinc sulfide. To make them water soluble for biological applications, a short organic molecule called a “ligand” is attached to the zinc atoms. The organic ligand also serves as a tether to attach additional functional molecules that cause the dot to bind to specific proteins.
The accepted commercial method uses a high-temperature reaction (about 300 degrees Celsius) that must be carefully controlled under an inert gas atmosphere for the crystallization and encapsulation stages. An intermediate ligand material that can tolerate the high temperature is used to promote the crystallization process, but it must be chemically swapped afterwards for a different compound that makes the material water soluble. The ligand exchange step—as well as several variations on the process—is known to significantly alter the luminescence and stability of the resulting quantum dots.
Seeking a better method, NIST researchers turned to microwave-assisted chemistry. Microwaves have been employed in a variety of chemical reactions to reduce the required times and temperatures. Working at temperatures half those of commercial processes, the group developed a relatively simple two-stage process that requires no special atmospheric conditions and directly incorporates the water-soluble ligand into the shell without an exchange step. Using commercially available starting materials, they have synthesized highly uniform and efficient quantum dots for a range of frequencies and shown them to be stable in aqueous solutions for longer than four months.
* M.D. Roy, A.A. Herzing, S.H. De Paoli Lacerda and M,L. Becker. Emission-tunable microwave synthesis of highly luminescent water soluble CdSe/ZnS quantum dots. Chemical Communications, 2008, 2106-2108.
Michael Baum | newswise
Carnegie Mellon researchers create soft, flexible materials with enhanced properties
24.05.2019 | Carnegie Mellon University
Plumbene, graphene's latest cousin, realized on the 'nano water cube'
23.05.2019 | Nagoya University
Researchers from Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg present a new method which can double the energy of a proton beam produced by laser-based particle accelerators. The breakthrough could lead to more compact, cheaper equipment that could be useful for many applications, including proton therapy.
Proton therapy involves firing a beam of accelerated protons at cancerous tumours, killing them through irradiation. But the equipment needed is so large and...
A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.
The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...
Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.
The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...
Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...
With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.
Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
27.05.2019 | Information Technology
27.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
27.05.2019 | Life Sciences