Mysteries of TOPSe Revealed: Insights into Quantum Dot Nucleation

We have investigated the reaction mechanism responsible for QD nucleation using optical absorption and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopies. For typical II−VI and IV−VI quantum dot (QD) syntheses, pure tertiary phosphine selenide sources (e.g., trioctylphosphine selenide (TOPSe)) were surprisingly found to be unreactive with metal carboxylates and incapable of yielding QDs. Rather, small quantities of secondary phosphines, which are impurities in tertiary phosphines, are entirely responsible for the nucleation of QDs; their low concentrations account for poor synthetic conversion yields. QD yields increase to nearly quantitative levels when replacing TOPSe with a stoiciometric amount of a secondary phosphine chalcogenide such as diphenylphosphine selenide. Based on our observations, we have proposed potential monomer identities, reaction pathways, and transition states and believe this mechanism to be universal to all II−VI and IV−VI QDs synthesized using phosphine based methods.