Functional nanocrystals are widely considered as novel building blocks for nanostructured materials and devices. Numerous synthesis approaches have been proposed in the solid, liquid and gas phase. Among the gas phase approaches, low pressure nonthermal plasmas offer some unique and beneficial features. Particles acquire a unipolar charge which reduces or eliminates agglomeration; particles can be electrostatically confined in a reactor based on their charge; strongly exothermic reactions at the particle surface heat particles to temperatures that significantly exceed the gas temperature and facilitate the formation of high quality crystals. This paper discusses two examples for the use of low pressure nonthermal plasmas. The first example is that of a constricted capacitive plasma for the formation of highly monodisperse, cubic-shaped silicon nanocrystals with an average size of 35 nm. The growth process of the particles is discussed. The silicon nanocubes have successfully been used as building blocks for nanoparticle-based transistors. The second example focuses on the synthesis of photoluminescent silicon crystals in the 3-6 nm size range. The synthesis approach described has enabled the synthesis of macroscopic quantities of quantum dots, with mass yields of several mg/hour. Quantum yields for photoluminescence as high as 67% have been achieved.
- Plasma reactor
- Silicon nanocrystals