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Atomic-scale modeling of transition-metal doping of semiconductor nanocrystals

Tejinder Singh, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Doping in bulk semiconductors (e.g., n- or p-type doping in silicon) allows for precise control of their properties and forms the basis for the development of electronic and photovoltaic devices. Recently, there have been reports on the successful synthesis of doped semiconductor nanocrystals (or quantum dots) for potential applications in solar cells and spintronics. For example, nanocrystals of ZnSe (with zinc-blende lattice structure) and CdSe and ZnO (with wurtzite lattice structure) have been doped successfully with transition-metal (TM) elements (Mn, Co, or Ni). Despite the recent progress, however, the underlying mechanisms of doping in colloidal nanocrystals are not well understood. This thesis reports a comprehensive theoretical analysis toward a fundamental kinetic and thermodynamic understanding of doping in ZnO, CdSe, and ZnSe quantum dots based on first-principles density-functional theory (DFT) calculations. The theoretical predictions of this thesis are consistent with experimental measurements and provide fundamental interpretations for the experimental observations. The mechanisms of doping of colloidal ZnO nanocrystals with the TM elements Mn, Co, and Ni is investigated. The dopant atoms are found to have high binding energies for adsorption onto the Zn-vacancy site of the (0001) basal surface and the O-vacancy site of the (0001) basal surface of ZnO nanocrystals; therefore, these surface vacancies provide viable sites for substitutional doping, which is consistent with experimental measurements. However, the doping efficiencies are affected by the strong tendencies of the TM dopants to segregate at the nanocrystal surface facets, as indicated by the corresponding computed dopant surface segregation energy profiles. Furthermore, using the Mn doping of CdSe as a case study, the effect of nanocrystal size on doping efficiency is explored. It is shown that Mn adsorption onto small clusters of CdSe is characterized by high binding energies, which, in conjunction with the Mn surface segregation characteristics on CdSe nanocrystals, explains experimental reports of high doping efficiency for small-size CdSe clusters. In addition, this thesis presents a systematic analysis of TM doping in ZnSe nanocrystals. The analysis focuses on the adsorption and surface segregation of Mn dopants on ZnSe nanocrystal surface facets, as well as dopant-induced nanocrystal morphological transitions, and leads to a fundamental understanding of the underlying mechanisms of dopant incorporation into growing nanocrystals. Both surface kinetics (dopant adsorption onto the nanocrystal surface facets) and thermodynamics (dopant surface segregation) are found to have a significant effect on the doping efficiencies in ZnSe nanocrystals. The analysis also elucidates the important role in determining the doping efficiency of ZnSe nanocrystals played by the chemical potentials of the growth precursor species, which determine the surface structure and morphology of the nanocrystals.

Subject Area

Chemical engineering|Nanotechnology

Recommended Citation

Singh, Tejinder, "Atomic-scale modeling of transition-metal doping of semiconductor nanocrystals" (2010). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3445183.