Optical, electronic and structural properties of nanocrystals fundamentally derive from crystal phase. This is especially important for polymorphic II-VI, III-V and I-III-VI 2 semiconductor materials such as cadmium selenide, which exist as two stable phases, cubic and hexagonal, each with distinct properties. However, standard crystallographic characterization through diffraction yields ambiguous phase signatures when nanocrystals are small or polytypic. Moreover, diffraction methods are low-throughput, incompatible with solution samples and require large sample quantities. Here we report the identification of unambiguous optical signatures of cubic and hexagonal phases in II-VI nanocrystals using absorption spectroscopy and first-principles electronic-structure theory. High-energy spectral features allow rapid identification of phase, even in small nanocrystals (∼2 nm), and may help predict polytypic nanocrystals from differential phase contributions. These theoretical and experimental insights provide simple and accurate optical crystallographic analysis for liquid-dispersed nanomaterials, to improve the precision of nanocrystal engineering and improve our understanding of nanocrystal reactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14849
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - May 17 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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