Growth and characterization of chalcogenide alloy nanowires with controlled spatial composition variation for optoelectronic applications
The energy band gap of a semiconductor material critically influences the operating wavelength of an optoelectronic device. Realization of any desired band gap, or even spatially graded band gaps, is important for applications such as lasers, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), solar cells, and detectors. Compared to thin films, nanowires offer greater flexibility for achieving a variety of alloy compositions. Furthermore, the nanowire geometry permits simultaneous incorporation of a wide range of compositions on a single substrate. Such controllable alloy composition variation can be realized either within an individual nanowire or between distinct nanowires across a substrate. This dissertation explores the control of spatial composition variation in ternary alloy nanowires. Nanowires were grown by the vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) mechanism using chemical vapor deposition (CVD). The gas-phase supersaturation was considered in order to optimize the deposition morphology. Composition and structure were characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and x-ray diffraction (XRD). Optical properties were investigated through photoluminescence (PL) measurements. The chalcogenides selected as alloy endpoints were lead sulfide (PbS), cadmium sulfide (CdS), and cadmium selenide (CdSe). Three growth modes of PbS were identified, which included contributions from spontaneously generated catalyst. The resulting wires were found capable of lasing with wavelengths over 4000 nm, representing the longest known wavelength from a sub-wavelength wire. For CdxPb1-xS nanowires, it was established that the cooling process significantly affects the alloy composition and structure. Quenching was critical to retain metastable alloys with x up to 0.14, representing a new composition in nanowire form. Alternatively, gradual cooling caused phase segregation, which created heterostructures with light emission in both the visible and mid-infrared regimes. The CdSSe alloy system was fully explored for spatial composition variation. CdSxSe1-x nanowires were grown with composition variation across the substrate. Subsequent contact printing preserved the designed composition gradient and led to the demonstration of a variable wavelength photodetector device. CdSSe axial heterostructure nanowires were also achieved. The growth process involved many variables, including a deliberate and controllable change in substrate temperature. As a result, both red and green light emission was detected from single nanowires.