Light emitting silicon nanoparticles (Si-NPs) are interesting for lighting applications due to their non-toxicity, chemical robustness and photo-stability, however, are not practically considered due to their low emission efficiencies. While large Si-NPs emitting in the red to infrared spectral region show ensemble emission quantum efficiencies up to 60%, the emission efficiencies of smaller Si-NP, emitting in the visible spectral range are far lower, typically below 10-20%. In this work, we test this efficiency limit by measuring for the first time the internal quantum efficiency (IQE), i.e. the higher bound of the emission quantum efficiency, considering only the emissive NPs within the ensemble, of Si-NPs emitting in the visible spectral range between 350 and 650 nm. On the basis of photoluminescence decay measurements in a Drexhage geometry, we show that Si-NPs with organic passivation (C:Si-NPs) can have high direct bandgap-like radiative rates, which enable a high IQE over ~50%. In this way, we demonstrate that Si-NPs can in principle be considered a competitive candidate as a phosphor in lighting applications and medical imaging also in the visible spectral range. Moreover, our findings show that the reason for the much lower ensemble emission efficiency is due to the fact that the ensemble consists of a low fraction of emissive NPs, most likely due to a low PL ‘blinking’ duty cycle.

ACS Photonics
Resonant Nanophotonics

Van Dam, B., Osorio, C., Hink, M., Muller, R., Koenderink, F., & Newell (Dohnalova), K. (2018). High internal emission efficiency of silicon nanoparticles emitting in the visible range. ACS Photonics, 5(6), 2129–2136. doi:10.1021/acsphotonics.7b01624