Preparation and ultrafast optical characterization of metal and semiconductor colloidal nano-particles

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The ultrafast dynamics of photoinduced electrons in several metal and semiconductor colloidal nanoparticle systems are characterized using femtosecond laser spectroscopy. Various preparation methods are used and, in several cases, modified for making particles with long-term stability and narrow and controllable size distributions. The particle size and size distribution are determined using transmission electron microscopy and electronic absorption spectroscopy. For aqueous gold and silver colloids, spatial size confinement is found to cause substantially slower electronic relaxation due to reduction of non-equilibrium electron transport and weaker electron-phonon coupling. In gold colloids, photoejection of electrons into the liquid is observed, which is attributed to a two-photon enhanced ionization process. The effect of surfactant on the electron dynamics in CdS colloids is examined and found to be significant, substantiating the notion that electrons are dominantly trapped at the liquid-solid interface. In Ru3+-doped TiO2 colloids, the electronic decay is found to be as fast as or even faster than in undoped TiO2 and other semiconductor colloids such as CdS, suggesting that ion doping of large bandgap semiconductor colloids is not necessarily effective in lengthening the electron lifetime. In almost all cases studied, the majority of the photoinduced electrons are found to decay within a few tens of picoseconds due to non-radiative relaxation. The results are discussed in the context of the potential applications of metal and semiconductor nano-particles in areas including photocatalysis and photoelectrochemistry.