A sustainable future for photonic colloidal nanocrystals
Colloidal nanocrystals – produced in a growing variety of shapes, sizes and compositions – are rapidly developing into a new generation of photonic materials, spanning light emitting as well as energy harvesting applications. Precise tailoring of their optoelectronic properties enables them to satisfy disparate application-specific requirements. However, the presence of toxic heavy metals such as cadmium and lead in some of the most mature nanocrystals is a serious drawback which may ultimately preclude their use in consumer applications. Although the pursuit of non-toxic alternatives has occurred in parallel to the well-developed Cd- and Pb-based nanocrystals, synthetic challenges have, until recently, curbed progress. In this review, we highlight recent advances in the development of heavy-metal-free nanocrystals within the context of specific photonic applications. We also describe strategies to transfer some of the advantageous nanocrystal features such as shape control to non-toxic materials. Finally, we present recent developments that have the potential to make substantial impacts on the quest to attain a balance between performance and sustainability in photonics.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Sustainable Nanotechnology