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September 11th, 2011
Semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) are nanoparticles or nanorods made of a semiconductor material. Because of their unique properties, they can be used in many fields, such as medicine and electronics. Here, we give a description of how QDs work and of some of their most novel applications.
A material behaves as a semiconductor when its electrical conductivity is in between that of an insulator and that of a conductor.
The mechanism of the conductivity in a semiconductor is shown in the Figure below. Electrons, normally in the valence band, have to be promoted into the conduction band; for this to happen, an appropriate amount of energy has to be absorbed by the material. This value, called the band gap, is different depending on the material.
The peculiarity of QDs is that they combine their semiconductor properties with
Valance and conduction bands in a semiconductor. Photo by mitopensourseware
those of a nanomaterial.
A nanomaterial is a material having at least one dimension in the order of nanometers (10-9 m), this usually meaning smaller than about 100 nm. Examples are nanoparticles (particles with a nanoscale diameter), nanorods (rods with all dimensions in the nanoscale) or nanofibres (fibers with a nanoscale diameter), and nanofilms (thin films with a nanoscale thickness). Due to their small dimensions, the properties of nanomaterials are normally different from those of the corresponding bulk material.
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