Catalysis Letters

, Volume 149, Issue 7, pp 1800–1812 | Cite as

Facile Surface Engineering of Ag–In–Zn–S Quantum Dot Photocatalysts by Mixed-Ligand Passivation with Improved Charge Carrier Lifetime

  • Yalin Yang
  • Yanhong Liu
  • Baodong MaoEmail author
  • Bifu Luo
  • Kewei Zhang
  • Wei Wei
  • Zhenhui Kang
  • Weidong ShiEmail author
  • Shouqi Yuan


I–III–VI quantum dots (QDs) play an important role in visible-light-driven photocatalysis due to their unique optical properties and widely tunable bandgap. However, these materials suffer from rich defect states and high charge carrier recombination. In this work, a facile mixed-ligand method was developed for the manipulation of the optical and photocatalytic properties of multinary Ag–In–Zn–S QDs by introducing 3-mecaptopropionic acid (MPA) into the l-cysteine (Cys) capped QDs system during synthesis. The effect and mechanism of MPA addition was systematically investigated. With the increase of MPA/Cys, the photoluminescence (PL) quantum yield (QY) of the QDs shows an obvious increase at the first stage (MPA/Cys < 5:5), whereas the particle size and UV–Vis absorption remain almost unchanged. Photocatalytic properties of QDs shows similar trend as PL QY with the increase of MPA/Cys, where the hydrogen production rate was doubled with MPA/Cys = 5:5. With ascorbic acid (AA) as the sacrificial reagent, the MPA/Cys capped QDs gave a hydrogen production rate as high as 6.64 mmol g−1 h−1, which is comparable to the state-of-the-art results but without any cocatalyst, indicating the fascination of the simple mixed-ligand method. Further mechanism study indicates that the introduced MPA resulted in dramatic increase of the PL lifetime and the reduction of nonradiative decay, which can be ascribed to the strong passivation effect of MPA. The MPA/Cys capped QDs also show compressed charge recombination as indicated in electrochemical impedance spectra, slightly more negative ζ-potential and reduced hydrated particle radius, which may also contribute to the improved charge transfer for photocatalysis. Our method provides a super simple strategy for the defect manipulation of the Ag–In–Zn–S QDs without the sacrifice of charge transfer, which could be a useful guideline for efficient QDs-based visible-active photocatalysts.

Graphical Abstract

Mixed-ligand-modified Ag–In–Zn–S quantum dots with improved hydrogen production were prepared.


Quantum dots Photocatalysis Mixed ligand 3-Mercaptopropionic acid 



The authors greatly acknowledge the financial supports from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 21501072 and 21522603), the Jiangsu Specially-Appointed Professors Program, the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (Grant No. BK20150489), the “Innovative and Entrepreneurial Doctor” Program of Jiangsu Province, the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant No. 2016M590419), the Jiangsu Province Postdoctoral Foundation (1501027A), and the Start Funding of Jiangsu University (Grant Nos. 15JDG011 and 15JDG027).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10562_2019_2718_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 15 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yalin Yang
    • 1
  • Yanhong Liu
    • 1
  • Baodong Mao
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bifu Luo
    • 1
  • Kewei Zhang
    • 1
  • Wei Wei
    • 1
  • Zhenhui Kang
    • 2
  • Weidong Shi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shouqi Yuan
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Chemistry and Chemical EngineeringJiangsu UniversityZhenjiangPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Carbon-Based Functional Materials and Devices, Institute of Functional Nano and Soft Materials (FUNSOM)Soochow UniversitySuzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Institute for Energy ResearchJiangsu UniversityZhenjiangPeople’s Republic of China

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