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Anal Chem. 2011 Feb 1;83(3):866-73. doi: 10.1021/ac102516n. Epub 2011 Jan 12.

Method for determining the elemental composition and distribution in semiconductor core-shell quantum dots.

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National ESCA and Surface Analysis Center for Biomedical Problems, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-1750, USA.


In the biological sciences, the use of core-shell quantum dots (QDs) has gained wide usage but analytical challenges still exist for characterizing the QD structure. The application of energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) to bulk materials is relatively straightforward; however, for meaningful applications of surface science techniques to multilayer nanoparticles requires novel modifications and analysis methods. To experimentally characterize the elemental composition and distribution in CdSe/CdS/ZnS QDs, we first develop a XPS signal subtraction technique capable of separating the overlapped selenium 3s (core) and sulfur 2s (shell) peaks (both peaks have binding energies near 230 eV) with higher precision than is typically reported in the nanoparticle literature. This method is valid for any nanoparticle containing selenium and sulfur. Then we apply a correction formula to the XPS data and determine that the 2 nm stoichiometric CdSe core is surrounded by 2 CdS layers and a stoichimetric ZnS monolayer. These findings and the multiapproach methodology represent a significant advancement in the detailed surface science study of multilayer nanoparticles. In agreement with recent surprising findings, the time-of-flight secondary mass spectrometry measurements suggest that the surface sites of the QDs used in this study are primarily covered with a mixture of octadecylphosphonic acid and trioctylphophine oxide.

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