Semiconductor nanocrystals are promising photocatalysts for a wide range of applications, ranging from alternative fuel generation to biomedical and environmental applications. This stems from their diverse properties, including flexible spectral tunability, stability, and photocatalytic efficiencies. Their functionality depends on the complex influence of multiple parameters, including their composition, dimensions, architecture, surface coating, and environmental conditions. A particularly promising direction for rapid adoption of these nanoparticles as photocatalysts is their ability to act as photoinitiators (PIs) for radical polymerization. Previous studies served to demonstrate the proof of concept for the use of quantum confined semiconductor nanocrystals as photoinitiators, coining the term Quantum PIs, and provided insights for their photocatalytic mechanism of action. However, these early reports suffered from low efficiencies while requiring purging with inert gases, use of additives, and irradiation by high light intensities with very long excitation durations, which limited their potential for real-life applications. The progress in nanocrystal syntheses and surface engineering has opened the way to the introduction of the next generation of Quantum PIs. Herein, we introduce the research area of nanocrystal photocatalysts, review their studies as Quantum PIs for radical polymerization, from suspension polymerization to novel printing, as well as in a new family of polymerization techniques, of reversible deactivation radical polymerization, and provide a forward-looking view for the challenges and prospects of this field.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 1363/18). U.B. thanks the Alfred & Erica Larisch memorial chair. S.M thanks the Enrique Berman memorial chair in Solar Energy.