Science, Vol.328, No.5985, 1543-1547, 2010
Hot-Electron Transfer from Semiconductor Nanocrystals
In typical semiconductor solar cells, photons with energies above the semiconductor bandgap generate hot charge carriers that quickly cool before all of their energy can be captured, a process that limits device efficiency. Although fabricating the semiconductor in a nanocrystalline morphology can slow this cooling, the transfer of hot carriers to electron and hole acceptors has not yet been thoroughly demonstrated. We used time-resolved optical second harmonic generation to observe hot-electron transfer from colloidal lead selenide (PbSe) nanocrystals to a titanium dioxide (TiO(2)) electron acceptor. With appropriate chemical treatment of the nanocrystal surface, this transfer occurred much faster than expected. Moreover, the electric field resulting from sub-50-femtosecond charge separation across the PbSe-TiO(2) interface excited coherent vibrations of the TiO(2) surface atoms, whose motions could be followed in real time.