We studied cation exchange reactions in colloidal Cu(2-x)Se nanocrystals (NCs) involving the replacement of Cu(+) cations with either Sn(2+) or Sn(4+) cations. This is a model system in several aspects: first, the +2 and +4 oxidation states for tin are relatively stable; in addition, the phase of the Cu(2-x)Se NCs remains cubic regardless of the degree of copper deficiency (that is, "x") in the NC lattice. Also, Sn(4+) ions are comparable in size to the Cu(+) ions, while Sn(2+) ones are much larger. We show here that the valency of the entering Sn ions dictates the structure and composition not only of the final products but also of the intermediate steps of the exchange. When Sn(4+) cations are used, alloyed Cu(2-4y)Sn(y)Se NCs (with y ≤ 0.33) are formed as intermediates, with almost no distortion of the anion framework, apart from a small contraction. In this exchange reaction the final stoichiometry of the NCs cannot go beyond Cu0.66Sn0.33Se (that is Cu2SnSe3), as any further replacement of Cu(+) cations with Sn(4+) cations would require a drastic reorganization of the anion framework, which is not possible at the reaction conditions of the experiments. When instead Sn(2+) cations are employed, SnSe NCs are formed, mostly in the orthorhombic phase, with significant, albeit not drastic, distortion of the anion framework. Intermediate steps in this exchange reaction are represented by Janus-type Cu(2-x)Se/SnSe heterostructures, with no Cu-Sn-Se alloys.
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