5 years ago

Visualizing Current Flow at the Mesoscale in Disordered Assemblies of Touching Semiconductor Nanocrystals

Visualizing Current Flow at the Mesoscale in Disordered Assemblies of Touching Semiconductor Nanocrystals
Elijah Thimsen, Jeffrey R. Guest, Qinyi Chen
The transport of electrons through assemblies of nanocrystals is important to performance in optoelectronic applications for these materials. Previous work has primarily focused on single nanocrystals or transitions between pairs of nanocrystals. There is a gap in knowledge of how large numbers of nanocrystals in an assembly behave collectively and how this collective behavior manifests at the mesoscale. In this work, the variable range hopping (VRH) transport of electrons in disordered assemblies of touching, heavily doped ZnO nanocrystals was visualized at the mesoscale as a function of temperature both theoretically, using the model of Skinner, Chen, and Shklovskii (SCS), and experimentally, with conductive atomic force microscopy on ultrathin films only a few particle layers thick. Agreement was obtained between the model and experiments, with a few notable exceptions. The SCS model predicts that a single network within the nanocrystal assembly, composed of sites connected by small resistances, dominates conduction, namely, the optimum band from variable range hopping theory. However, our experiments revealed that in addition to the optimum band there are subnetworks that appear as additional peaks in the resistance histogram of conductive atomic force microscopy (CAFM) maps. Furthermore, the connections of these subnetworks to the optimum band change in time, such that some subnetworks become connected to the optimum band while others become disconnected and isolated from the optimum band; this observation appears to be an experimental manifestation of the “blinking” phenomenon in our images of mesoscale transport.

Publisher URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpcc.7b04949

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.7b04949

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