Probing permanent dipoles in CdSe nanoplatelets with transient electric birefringence†
Zinc-blende CdSe semiconducting nanoplatelets (NPL) show outstanding quantum confinement properties thanks to their small, atomically-controlled, thickness. For example, they display extremely sharp absorption peaks and ultra-fast recombination rates that make them very interesting objects for optoelectronic applications. However, the presence of a ground-state electric dipole for these nanoparticles has not yet been investigated. We therefore used transient electric birefringence (TEB) to probe the electric dipole of 5-monolayer thick zinc blende CdSe NPL with a parallelepipedic shape. We studied a dilute dispersion of isolated NPL coated with branched ligands and we measured, as a function of time, the birefringence induced by DC and AC field pulses. The electro-optic behavior proves the presence of a large dipolar moment (>245 D) oriented along the length of the platelets. We then induced the slow face-to-face stacking of the NPL by adding oleic acid. In these stacks, the in-plane dipole components of consecutive NPL cancel whereas their normal components add. Moreover, interestingly, the excess polarizability tensor of the NPL stacks gives rise to an electro-optic contribution opposite to that of the electric dipole. By monitoring the TEB signal of the slowly-growing stacks over up to a year, we extracted the evolution of their average length with time and we showed that their electro-optic response can be explained by the presence of a 80 D dipolar component parallel to their normal. In spite of the 3m space group of bulk zinc blende CdSe, these NPL thus bear an important ground-state dipole whose magnitude per unit volume is twice that found for wurtzite CdSe nanorods. We discuss the possible origin of this electric dipole, its consequences for the optical properties of these nanoparticles, and how it could explain their strong stacking propensity that severely hampers their colloidal stability.