Nano Research

Article Title

Photoluminescence of Ag-In-S/ZnS quantum dots: Excitation energy dependence and low-energy electronic structure


core/shell quantum dot, silver indium sulfide, defect photoluminescence, photoluminescence quantum yield, single-dot spectroscopy


Cd-free I-III-VI group semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) like Ag–In–S and Cu–In–S show unstructured absorption spectra with a pronounced Urbach tail, rendering the determination of their band gap energy (Eg) and the energy structure of the exciton difficult. Additionally, the origin of the broad photoluminescence (PL) band with lifetimes of several hundred nanoseconds is still debated. This encouraged us to study the excitation energy dependence (EED) of the PL maxima, PL spectral band widths, quantum yields (QYs), and decay kinetics of AIS/ZnS QDs of different size, composition, and surface capping ligands. These results were then correlated with the second derivatives of the corresponding absorption spectra. The excellent match between the onset of changes in PL band position and spectral width with the minima found for the second derivatives of the absorption spectra underlines the potential of the EED approach for deriving Eg values of these ternary QDs from PL data. The PL QY is, however, independent of excitation energy in the energy range studied. From the EED of the PL features of the AIS/ZnS QDs we could also derive a mechanism of the formation of the low-energy electronic structure. This was additionally confirmed by a comparison of the EED of PL data of as-synthesized and size-selected QD ensembles and the comparison of these PL data with PL spectra of single QDs. These results indicate a strong contribution of intrinsic inhomogeneous PL broadening to the overall emission features of AIS/ZnS QDs originating from radiative transitions from a set of energy states of defects localized at different positions within the quantum dot volume, in addition to contributions from dimensional and chemical broadening. This mechanism was confirmed by numerically modelling the absorption and PL energies with a simple mass approximation for spherical QDs and a modified donor–acceptor model, thereby utilizing the advantages of previously proposed PL mechanisms of ternary QDs. These findings will pave the road to a deeper understanding of the nature of PL in quantum confined I–III–VI group semiconductor nanomaterials.

Graphical Abstract


Tsinghua University Press