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Nano Lett. 2013 Jun 12;13(6):2924-30. doi: 10.1021/nl401309z. Epub 2013 May 22.

Photoelectron spectroscopy of CdSe nanocrystals in the gas phase: a direct measure of the evanescent electron wave function of quantum dots.

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Department of Physics and JILA, University of Colorado and NIST, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


We present the first photoelectron spectroscopy measurements of quantum dots (semiconductor nanocrystals) in the gas phase. By coupling a nanoparticle aerosol source to a femtosecond velocity map imaging photoelectron spectrometer, we apply robust gas-phase photoelectron spectroscopy techniques to colloidal quantum dots, which typically must be studied in a liquid solvent or while bound to a surface. Working with a flowing aerosol of quantum dots offers the additional advantages of providing fresh nanoparticles for each laser shot and removing perturbations from bonding with a surface or interactions with the solvent. In this work, we perform a two-photon photoionization experiment to show that the photoelectron yield per exciton depends on the physical size of the quantum dot, increasing for smaller dots. Next, using effective mass modeling we show that the extent to which the electron wave function of the exciton extends from the quantum dot, the so-called "evanescent electron wavefunction", increases as the size of the quantum dot decreases. We show that the photoelectron yield is dominated by the evanescent electron density due to quantum confinement effects, the difference in the density of states inside and outside of the quantum dots, and the angle-dependent transmission probability of electrons through the surface of the quantum dot. Therefore, the photoelectron yield directly reflects the fraction of evanescent electron wave function that extends outside of the quantum dot. This work shows that gas-phase photoelectron spectroscopy is a robust and general probe of the electronic structure of quantum dots, enabling the first direct measurements of the evanescent exciton wave function.


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