The unique optical properties, such as size-tunable absorption and emission, caused semiconductor nanocrystals to attract a great deal of interest for recent technological developments. For the evaluation of semiconductor nanocrystals as new materials for various applications like optoelectronic devices, knowledge of the structure–property relationships is indispensable, but still presents a challenge. Here, we address these challenges for thioglycolic acid-capped CdTe nanocrystals with a focus on the quantification of thiol ligands, identification of the ligand shell structure and their influence on the optical properties of these nanocrystals. We present the use of a simple analytical technique, the Ellman's test, and ICP-OES analysis for the study of the surface chemistry of these nanomaterials. Together with theoretical calculations, the results of these studies show the strong influence of the amount of Cd–thiolates present in the ligand shell on the concentration-dependent emission properties, thereby providing the basis for a better understanding of the chemical nature of the NC–ligand interface. In this context, the present work contributes to the establishment of a clearer picture and better control of the surface chemistry, which will provide the basis for the design of highly emitting nanocrystals and the prediction of their applicability.
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