Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Science




Corrigan, John F.

2nd Supervisor

Huang, Yining



Synthesis of zinc phosphide (Zn3P2) nanoparticles is an emerging topic of investigation as Zn3P2 is a candidate material for the next generation solar cells. Despite the early discovery of its favorable electronic properties that are well-suited for photovoltaic applications, a major focus of synthetic strategy was with vapor/chemical deposition methods. Solution methods with greater control over size, crystal structure and composition at a lower production cost, has been underdeveloped in comparison. In this context, this thesis describes the synthesis, characterization and reactivity of zinc phosphido clusters: [Zn2(μ-PPh2)2(PPh2)2(NC5H5)2], [Zn4(μ-PPh2)4(OAc)4(NC5H5)2] and a phosphinidene cluster: [Zn63-PSiMe3)4(OAc)4(NC5H5)5] as potential single source precursors for solution synthesis of Zn3P2 nanoparticles. The clusters were prepared by reacting zinc acetate with silylphosphines and fully characterized via multinuclear NMR spectroscopy, single crystal XRD, melting point and combustion analysis. Use of the pyridine solvent was critical as pyridine ligands provided the necessary ligand stabilization for the isolation and crystallization of the clusters. When the zinc phosphido clusters were thermolyzed in pyridine, they yielded metallic zinc nanocrystals via a redox process. When the thermolysis was carried out with white phosphorus as an additive, soluble, zinc rich aggregates of zinc phosphides were produced. [Zn4(μ-PPh2)4(OAc)4(NC5H5)2] showed reactivity with P(SiMe3)3, but a larger cluster framework could not be isolated. When thermolyzed in oleylamine, [Zn63-PSiMe3)4(OAc)4(NC5H5)5] produced highly crystalline, non-luminescent and soluble zinc phosphide nanoparticles, a first example of a direct cluster to nanoparticle conversion for Zn3P2.

Summary for Lay Audience

Climate change continues to be an important issue of the generation with increasing cases of extreme weather and the rising sea level from melting glaciers. Of the many ways to mitigate anthropogenic contributions to this crisis is to shift our energy sources towards green and renewable energy such as solar instead of fossil fuels. Silicon based solar cells are the most widely used in the world due to the abundance of the element, but not for their efficiency. Indeed, there are other materials that could be more efficient at harvesting solar energy. Thus one strategy to improve our solar energy harvesting capability is to investigate these candidate materials to replace silicon. Zinc phosphide (Zn3P2) is one of such materials with properties that are better suited for applications in solar cells. However, it is not yet been commercialized with current efforts geared towards developing a method that is suitable for widespread use. This thesis contributes to this ongoing effort by investigating new routes towards synthesizing Zn3P2 nanoparticles.