Terahertz-driven Luminescence and Colossal Stark Effect in CdSe:CdS Colloidal Quantum Dots

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Unique optical properties of colloidal semiconductor quantum dots (QDs), arising from quantum mechanical confinement of charge within these structures, present a versatile testbed for the study of how high electric fields affect the electronic structure of nanostructured solids. Earlier studies of quasi-DC electric field modulation of QD properties have been limited by the electrostatic breakdown processes under the high externally applied electric fields, which have restricted the range of modulation of QD properties. In contrast, in the present work we drive CdSe:CdS core:shell QD films with high-field THz-frequency electromagnetic pulses whose duration is only a few picoseconds. Surprisingly, in response to the THz excitation we observe QD luminescence even in the absence of an external charge source. Our experiments show that QD luminescence is associated with a remarkably high and rapid modulation of the QD band-gap, which is changing by more than 0.5 eV (corresponding to 25% of the unperturbed bandgap energy) within the picosecond timeframe of THz field profile. We show that these colossal energy shifts can be consistently explained by the quantum confined Stark effect. Our work demonstrates a route to extreme modulation of material properties without configurational changes in material sets or geometries. Additionally, we expect that this platform can be adapted to a novel compact THz detection scheme where conversion of THz fields (with meV-scale photon energies) to the visible/near-IR band (with eV-scale photon energies) can be achieved at room temperature with high bandwidth and sensitivity.