Orientation-dependent imaging of electronically excited quantum dots

Duc Nguyen, Joshua J. Goings, Huy A. Nguyen, Joseph Lyding, Xiaosong Li, Martin Gruebele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We previously demonstrated that we can image electronic excitations of quantum dots by single-molecule absorption scanning tunneling microscopy (SMA-STM). With this technique, a modulated laser beam periodically saturates an electronic transition of a single nanoparticle, and the resulting tunneling current modulation ΔI(x0, y0) maps out the SMA-STM image. In this paper, we first derive the basic theory to calculate ΔI(x0, y0) in the one-electron approximation. For near-resonant tunneling through an empty orbital "i" of the nanostructure, the SMA-STM signal is approximately proportional to the electron density φix0,y02 of the excited orbital in the tunneling region. Thus, the SMA-STM signal is approximated by an orbital density map (ODM) of the resonantly excited orbital at energy Ei. The situation is more complex for correlated electron motion, but either way a slice through the excited electronic state structure in the tunneling region is imaged. We then show experimentally that we can nudge quantum dots on the surface and roll them, thus imaging excited state electronic structure of a single quantum dot at different orientations. We use density functional theory to model ODMs at various orientations, for qualitative comparison with the SMA-STM experiment. The model demonstrates that our experimentally observed signal monitors excited states, localized by defects near the surface of an individual quantum dot. The sub-nanometer super-resolution imaging technique demonstrated here could become useful for mapping out the three-dimensional structure of excited states localized by defects within nanomaterials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number064701
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 14 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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