Quantum dots are semiconductor particles only a few nanometers wide — small enough that they behave like individual atoms. When driven with electrical current, electrons and positively charged holes become confined in the dots and recombine to emit light — a property that can be exploited to make lasers.
Quantum dots exhibit properties that are intermediate between those of bulk semiconductors and those of discrete molecules. Their optoelectronic properties change as a function of both size and shape. Larger QDs (radius of 5–6 nm, for example) emit longer wavelengths resulting in emission colors such as orange or red. Smaller QDs (radius of 2–3 nm, for example) emit shorter wavelengths resulting in colors like blue and green, although the specific colors and sizes vary depending on the exact composition of the QD.
Because of their highly tunable properties, QDs are of wide interest. Potential applications include transistors, solar cells, LEDs, diode lasers and second-harmonic generation, quantum computing, and medical imaging. Additionally, their small size allows for QDs to be suspended in solution which leads to possible uses in inkjet printing and spin-coating.