Unravelling the Roles of Size, Ligands, and Pressure in the Piezochromic Properties of CdS Nanocrystals

Niccolo R. C. Corsini, Nicholas D. M. Hine, Peter D. Haynes, Carla Molteni

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14 Citations (Scopus)
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Understanding the effects of pressure-induced deformations on the optoelectronic properties of nanomaterials is important not only from the fundamental point of view but also for potential applications such as stress sensors and electromechanical devices. Here, we describe the novel insights into these piezochromic effects gained from using a linear-scaling density functional theory framework and an electronic enthalpy scheme, which allow us to accurately characterize the electronic structure of CdS nanocrystals with a zincblende-like core of experimentally relevant size. In particular, we focus on unravelling the complex interplay of size and surface (phenyl) ligands with pressure. We show that pressure-induced deformations are not simple isotropic scaling of the original structures and that the change in HOMO–LUMO gap with pressure results from two competing factors: (i) a bulk-like linear increase due to compression, which is offset by (ii) distortions and disorder and, to a lesser extent, orbital hybridization induced by ligands affecting the frontier orbitals. Moreover, we observe that the main peak in the optical absorption spectra is systematically red-shifted or blue-shifted, as pressure is increased up to 5 GPa, depending on the presence or absence of phenyl ligands. These heavily hybridize the frontier orbitals, causing a reduction in overlap and oscillator strength, so that at zero pressure, the lowest energy transition involves deeper hole orbitals than in the case of hydrogen-capped nanocrystals; the application of pressure induces greater delocalization over the whole nanocrystals bringing the frontier hole orbitals into play and resulting in an unexpected red shift for the phenyl-capped nanocrystals, in part caused by distortions. In response to a growing interest in relatively small nanocrystals that can be difficult to accurately characterize with experimental techniques, this work exemplifies the detailed understanding of structure–property relationships under pressure that can be obtained for realistic nanocrystals with state-of-the-art first-principles methods and used for the characterization and design of devices based on these and similar nanomaterials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1042-1048
Number of pages7
JournalNano Letters
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2017


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