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Langmuir. 2008 May 20;24(10):5270-6. doi: 10.1021/la703431j. Epub 2008 Apr 16.

Modified ligand-exchange for efficient solubilization of CdSe/ZnS quantum dots in water: a procedure guided by computational studies.

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Singapore-MIT Alliance, National University of Singapore, 4 Engineering Drive 3, Singapore 117583.


One of the methods to render CdSe/ZnS core-shell quantum dots(QDots) water-soluble is to functionalize the surface with carboxylate groups by the use of heterobifunctional ligands such as 3-mercaptopropionic acid, where the thiolic end binds onto the outer ZnS shell. However, currently available ligand-exchange procedures starting with TOPO-capped quantum dots often lead to significant loss of quantum yields and poor stability of the colloids in water. As part of our efforts to overcome these problems, we used computational methods to understand the nature of binding between alkyl thiols and ZnS wurtzite surfaces. Guided by the computational results, we modified the ligand-exchange method and increased the reactivity of 3-mercaptopropionic acid toward the ZnS surface in chloroform. The functionlization reaction required only mild reaction conditions and led to QDot nanoparticles that were individually dispersed in water with good colloidal stability. Importantly, the photoluminescence performance of the QDots was highly preserved.

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