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New Frontiers in Quantum Dots Science: Assembly and Functionalisation

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Joining the quantum dots for new bio applications

Researchers investigated the assembling and functionalising of different octanuclear zinc sulphide (ZnS) nanoclusters. These crystalline nanoclusters are vital to the study of quantum confinement effects and are interesting for biolabelling and biosensing applications.

Industrial Technologies

Quantum dots (QDs) are nanocrystals made from semiconductor materials whose electronic characteristics are closely related to the size and shape of their individual crystals. Because the size of crystals — and therefore their conductive properties — can be controlled during synthesis, they have been used in applications such as transistors, solar cells and diode lasers. A more recent area of investigation covers the use of QDs in biological applications. An EU-funded research project, 'New frontiers in quantum dots science: Assembly and functionalisation' (NEWQDS), pushed knowledge about different QD configuration made from stoichiometric crystalline nanoclusters. It explored their optical properties and how they can be used as multifunctional materials. A major breakthrough during the three-year project was the supramolecular assembly of Zn-S clusters and lipid bilayers, which maintain their integrity without morphological disruption. This has improved understanding of the dissipative self-assembly, enabling researchers to develop a new type of membrane/lipid bi-layer phase state probe. The technique promises to be a cost-effective way of making crystalline molecular clusters suitable for many everyday biological applications. Another aim of the research was to create more stable crystalline polyoxometalate (POM) clusters; here, a number of hybrid materials were designed that show high structural robustness and thermal stability. Meanwhile, progress was made on the material characterisation of crystalline alloys of polyoxometalates, producing highly reproducible synthetic protocols for these highly customisable materials. NEWQDS has advanced understanding of POMs and how they are formed. With the properties for these advanced materials very interesting for photovoltaic cells, batteries and dual catalysis applications, the project will help to drive industrial innovation and efficiency.

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