An immediate optical feature of colloidal quantum dots is their coloration. While the material which makes up a quantum dot defines its intrinsic energy signature, the nanocrystal's quantum confined size is more significant at energies near the band gap. Thus quantum dots of the same material, but with different sizes, can emit light of different colors. The physical reason is the quantum confinement effect.
The larger the dot, the redder (lower energy) its fluorescence spectrum. Conversely, smaller dots emit bluer (higher energy) light. The coloration is directly related to the energy levels of the quantum dot.
Quantitatively speaking, the bandgap energy that determines the energy (and hence color) of the fluorescent light is inversely proportional to the size of the quantum dot. Larger quantum dots have more energy levels which are also more closely spaced.
This allows the quantum dot to absorb photons containing less energy, i.e., those closer to the red end of the spectrum.
Recent articles in nanotechnology and in other journals have begun to suggest that the shape of the quantum dot may be a factor in the coloration as well, but as yet not enough information is available.
Furthermore, it was shown that the lifetime of fluorescence is determined by the size of the quantum dot.
Larger dots have more closely spaced energy levels in which the electron-hole pair can be trapped. Therefore, electron-hole pairs in larger dots live longer causing larger dots to show a longer lifetime.
As with any crystalline semiconductor, a quantum dot's electronic wave functions extend over the crystal lattice. Similar to a molecule, a quantum dot has both a quantized energy spectrum and a quantized density of electronic states near the edge of the band gap.
Qdots can be synthesized with larger (thicker) shells (CdSe qdots with CdS shells). The shell thickness has shown direct correlation to the lifetime and emission intensity.