Silicon nanoparticles (Si-NPs) represent one of many types of nanomaterials, where the origin of emission is difficult to assess due to a complex interplay between the core and surface chemistry. Band-gap tunability in Si-NPs is predicted to span from the infrared to the ultraviolet spectral range, which is rarely observed in practice. In this work, we directly assess the size dependence of the optical band gap using a single-dot correlative microscopy tool, where the size of the individual NPs is measured using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and the optical band gap is evaluated from single-dot photoluminescence measured on the very same NPs. We analyze 2–8 nm alkyl-capped Si-NPs prepared by a sol–gel method, followed by annealing at 1300 °C. Surprisingly, we find that the optical band gap is given by the amorphous shell, as evidenced by the convergence of the optical band gap size dependence toward the amorphous Si band gap of ∼1.56 eV. We propose that the structural disorder might be the reason behind the often reported limited emission tunability from various Si-NPs in the literature. We believe that our message points toward a pressing need for development and broader use of such direct correlative single-dot microscopy methods to avoid possible misinterpretations that could arise from attempts to recover size–band gap relation from ensemble methods, as practiced nowadays.

ACS Appl. Nano Mater.
Resonant Nanophotonics

Huang, C.-C., Tang, Y., van der Laan, M., van de Groep, J., Koenderink, F., & Dohnalová, K. (2021). Band-Gap Tunability in Partially Amorphous Silicon Nanoparticles Using Single-Dot Correlative Microscopy. ACS Appl. Nano Mater., 4(1), 288–296. doi:10.1021/acsanm.0c02395