Natl Sci Rev. 2022 Feb 26;9(10):nwac025. doi: 10.1093/nsr/nwac025. eCollection 2022 Oct.
Beyond the state-of-the-art Cd-containing quantum wires (QWs), heavy-metal-free semiconductor QWs, such as ZnSe, are of great interest for next-generation environmental-benign applications. Unfortunately, simultaneous, on-demand manipulation of their radial and axial sizes-that allows strong quantum confinement in the blue-light region-has so far been challenging. Here we present a two-step catalyzed growth strategy that enables independent, high-precision and wide-range controls over the diameter and length of ZnSe QWs. We find that a new epitaxial orientation between the cubic-phase Ag2Se solid catalyst and wurtzite ZnSe QWs kinetically favors the formation of defect-free ultrathin QWs. Thanks to their high uniformity, the resulting blue-light-active, phase-pure ZnSe QWs exhibit well-defined excitonic absorption with the 1Se-1Sh transition linewidth as narrow as sub-13 nm. Combining the transient absorption spectroscopy, we further show that surface electron traps in these ZnSe QWs can be eliminated by thiol passivation, which results in long-lived charge carriers and high-efficiency solar-to-hydrogen conversion.