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Metal Halide Surface Treatment of Quantum Dots

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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Technology Marketing Summary

Quantum dot (QD) solids are a solution-processed, composite thin film semiconductor system that is being developed for optoelectronics (display technology, solid state lighting, next generation photovoltaics, photodetector application, etc.). For photovoltaics, in addition to being solution processable, QD solar cells (QDSCs) have a higher limiting single junction power conversion efficiency than is possible using conventional bulk or thin film semiconductors due to enhanced multiple exciton generation in the QDs. Recent improvements in QDSC performance and processing ease have resulted from modification of the device architecture, processing of the QD-layers under ambient conditions, improved QD synthetic procedures and surface treatments improving QD passivation.


Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have created a method of preparing fully inorganic arrays of PbE (E=S or Se) QD films using a metal halide (PbI2, PbCl2, CdI2, or CdCl2) – dimethylformamide (DMF) complex to displace oleate ligands and terminate the QDs with the metal halide. The resulting QD-solids have a significant reduction in the carbon content compared to films treated with thiols and organic halides. NREL researchers have found that this treatment is successful in removing alkyl surface ligands and also replaces any surface bound impurities. This treatment protocol results in stoichiometric QD films with a deeper work function and band positions than other ligand exchanges. The method developed produces solar cells that perform well even at film thicknesses approaching a micron, indicating improved carrier transportation in the QD films. The best QD solar cells based on PbI2 had power conversion efficiencies above 8%.

Using a metal halide / solvent complex enables high quality QD solids and will be applicable for multiple QD compounds (PbS, PbSe, PbTe, CdS, CdSe, CdTe, ZnS, ZnSe, ZnTe, CuInS, CuInSe, etc.) for a variety of optoelectronic device and sensing applications.


  • Removes original ligands and other surface passivants
  • Produces very clean (in terms of carbon content) films
  • Reduces organic residue to 2% from 20%
  • Promotes better electronic transport
  • Leads to deep energy level positions in comparison to other surface treatments
Applications and Industries
  • Photovoltaic solar cells
  • LEDs / Lasers
  • Displays (TV, monitors, signs, etc.)
  • Optical detectors (photodetectors, night vision, thermal detectors, etc.)
  • Quantum dots
Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 9,324,562
Metal halide solid-state surface treatment for nanocrystal materials
Methods of treating nanocrystal and/or quantum dot devices are described. The methods include contacting the nanocrystals and/or quantum dots with a solution including metal ions and halogen ions, such that the solution displaces native ligands present on the surface of the nanocrystals and/or quantum dots via ligand exchange.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory 04/26/2016
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
NREL ROI 15-18PrototypeAvailable10/20/201510/20/2015

Contact NREL About This Technology

To: Bill Hadley<>