A colloidal nanoparticle form of indium tin oxide: system development and characterization
Gilstrap, Richard Allen, Jr.
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A logical progression from the maturing field of colloidal semiconductor quantum dots to the emerging subclass of impurity-doped colloidal semiconductor nanoparticles is underway. To this end, the present work describes the formation and analysis of a new form of Tin-doped Indium Oxide (ITO). The form is that of a colloidal dispersion comprised of pure-phase, 4-6 nanometer ITO particles possessing an essentially single crystalline character. This system forms a non-agglomerated, optically clear solution in a variety of non-polar solvents and can remain in this state, at room temperature, for months and potentially, years. ITO is the most widely used member of the exotic materials family known as Transparent Conductive Oxides (TCOs) and is the primary enabling material behind a wide variety of opto-electronic device technologies. Material synthesis was achieved by initiating a series of interrelated nucleophilic substitution reactions that provided sufficient intensity to promote doping efficiencies greater than 90% for a wide range of tin concentrations. The optical clarity of this colloidal system allowed the intrinsic properties of single crystalline ITO particles to be evaluated prior to their use in thin-films or composite structures. Monitoring the temporal progression of n-type degeneracy by its effects on the optical properties of colloidal dispersions shed light on the fundamental issues of particle formation, band filling (Burstein-Moss) dynamics, and the very origin of n-type degeneracy in ITO. Central to these studies was the issue of excess electron character. The two limiting cases of entirely free and entirely confined electron motion were evaluated by application of bulk-like band dispersion analysis and the effective mass approximation, respectively. This provided a means to estimate the number of excess conduction band electrons present within an individual particle boundary. The ability to control and optimize the level of n-type degeneracy within the colloidal ITO nanoparticle form by compositional variation was also demonstrated. A key to the widespread adoption of a new material by industry is an ability to produce multi-gram and perhaps, kilogram quantities with no significant sacrifice in quality. Accordingly, a modified synthesis process was developed to allow for the mass production of high-quality colloidal ITO nanocrystals.