Electrochemical Control of Two-Color Emission from Colloidal Dot-in-Bulk Nanocrystals
Colloidal "dot-in-bulk" nanocrystals (DiB NCs) consist of a quantum confined core embedded into a bulklike shell of a larger energy gap. The first reported example of this class of nanostructures are CdSe/CdS DiB NCs that are capable of producing tunable two-color emission under both weak continuous-wave optical excitation and electrical charge injection. This property is a consequence of a Coulomb blockade mechanism, which slows down dramatically intraband relaxation of shell-localized holes when the core is already occupied by a hole. Here, we demonstrate electrochemical control of dual emission from DiB NCs. Spectro-electrochemical (SEC) experiments are used to tune and probe the photoluminescence (PL) intensity and branching between the core and the shell emission channels as a function of applied electrochemical potential (V-EC). To interpret the SEC data we develop a model that describes the changes in the intensities of the shell and core PL bands by relating them to the occupancies of electron and hole traps. Specifically, application of negative electrochemical potentials under which theratiometric Fermi level is shifted upward in energy leads to passivation of electron traps at the surface of the CdS shell thereby increasing the total PL quantum yield by favoring the shell emission. Simultaneously, the emission color changes from red (V-EC = 0) through yellow to green (V-EC = 1). Time-resolved PL measurements indicate that as the Fermi level approaches the NC conduction band-edge electrons are injected into the NC quantized states, which leads to typical signatures of negative trions observed under optical excitation. Application of positive potentials leads to activation of electron traps, which quenches both core and shell PL and leads to the reduction of the overall PL quantum efficiency. A high sensitivity of emission intensity (especially pronounced for the shell band) and the apparent emission color of DiB NCs to local electrochemical environment can enable interesting applications of these novel nanostructures in areas of imaging and sensing including, for example, ratiometric probing of intracellular pH.