[Acc. Chem. Res.] Microfluidic Technology: Uncovering the Mechanisms of Nanocrystal Nucleation and G
The controlled and reproducible formation of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals (or quantum dots) is of central importance in nanoscale science and technology. The tunable size- and shape-dependent properties of such materials make them ideal candidates for the development of efficient and low-cost displays, solar cells, light-emitting devices, and catalysts. The formidable difficulties associated with the macroscale preparation of semiconductor nanocrystals (possessing bespoke optical and chemical properties) result from the fact that underlying reaction mechanisms are complex and that the reactive environment is difficult to control. Automated microfluidic reactors coupled with monitoring systems and optimization algorithms aim to elucidate complex reaction mechanisms that govern both nucleation and growth of nanocrystals. Such platforms are ideally suited for the efficient optimization of reaction parameters, assuring the reproducible synthesis of nanocrystals with user-defined properties.
This Account aims to inform the nanomaterials community about how microfluidic technologies can supplement flask experimentation for the ensemble investigation of formation mechanisms and design of semiconductor nanocrystals. We present selected studies outlining the preparation of quantum dots using microfluidic systems with integrated analytics. Such microfluidic reaction systems leverage the ability to extract real-time information regarding optical, structural, and compositional characteristics of quantum dots during nucleation and growth stages.
The Account further highlights our recent research activities focused on the development and application of droplet-based microfluidics with integrated optical detection systems for the efficient and rapid screening of reaction conditions and a better understanding of the mechanisms of quantum dot synthesis. We describe the features and operation of fully automated microfluidic reactors and their subsequent application to high-throughput parametric screening of metal chalcogenides (CdSe, PbS, PbSe, CdSeTe), ternary and core/shell heavy metal-free quantum dots (CuInS2, CuInS2/ZnS), and all-inorganic perovskite nanocrystals (CsPbX3, X = Cl, Br, I) syntheses. Critically, concurrent absorption and photoluminescence measurements on millisecond to second time scales allow the extraction of basic parameters governing nanocrystal formation. Moreover, experimental data obtained from such microfluidic platforms can be directly supported by theoretical models of nucleation and growth. To this end, we also describe the use of metamodeling algorithms able to accurately predict optimized conditions of CdSe synthesis using a minimal number of sample parameters.
Importantly, we discuss future challenges that must be addressed before microfluidic technologies are in a position to be widely adopted for the on-demand formation of nanocrystals. From a technology perspective, these challenges include the development of novel engineering platforms for the formation of complex architectures, the integration of monitoring systems able to harvest photophysical and structural information, the incorporation of continuous purification systems, and the application of optimization algorithms to multicomponent quantum dot systems.
Ioannis Lignos†‡, Richard Maceiczyk†, and Andrew J. deMello*† † Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, Vladimir-Prelog-Weg 1, Zurich 8093, Switzerland Acc. Chem. Res., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/acs.accounts.7b00088 Publication Date (Web): May 3, 2017 Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society *E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.