N-Heterocyclic Carbenes as Reversible Exciton-Delocalizing Ligands for Photoluminescent Quantum Dots

Dana E. Westmoreland, Rafael López-Arteaga, Emily A. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Delocalization of excitons within semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) into states at the interface of the inorganic core and organic ligand shell by so-called "exciton-delocalizing ligands (EDLs)" is a promising strategy to enhance coupling of QD excitons with proximate molecules, ions, or other QDs. EDLs thereby enable enhanced rates of charge carrier extraction from, and transport among, QDs and dynamic colorimetric sensing. The application of reported EDLs - which bind to the QDs through thiolates or dithiocarbamates - is however limited by the irreversibility of their binding and their low oxidation potentials, which lead to a high yield of photoluminescence-quenching hole trapping on the EDL. This article describes a new class of EDLs for QDs, 1,3-dimethyl-4,5-disubstituted imidazolylidene N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs), where the 4,5-substituents are Me, H, or Cl. Postsynthetic ligand exchange of native oleate capping ligands for NHCs results in a bathochromic shift of the optical band gap of CdSe QDs (R = 1.17 nm) of up to 111 meV while the colloidal stability of the QDs is maintained. This shift is reversible for the MeNHC-capped and HNHC-capped QDs upon protonation of the NHC. The magnitude of exciton delocalization induced by the NHC (after scaling for surface coverage) increases with the increasing acidity of its πsystem, which depends on the substituent in the 4,5-positions of the imidazolylidene. The NHC-capped QDs maintain photoluminescence quantum yields of up to 4.2 ± 1.8% for shifts of the optical band gap as large as 106 meV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2690-2696
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Feb 5 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry

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