Synthesis of Cadmium Sulfide Nanoparticles

The procedure shown here was adapted by Paul Hansen and George Lisensky from Kurt Winkelmann, Thomas Noviello, and Steven Brooks, "Preparation of CdS Nanoparticles by First-Year Undergraduates," J. Chem. Educ. (2007) 84, 709-710, which was based on M. L. Curri, A. Agostiano, L. Manna, M. D. Monica, M. Catalano, L. Chiavarone, V. Spagnolo and M. Lugarà, J. Phys. Chem. B, (2000) 104, 8391-8397.

Hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide has a long hydrophobic chain and a polar head group.

The molecule does not dissolve well in either aqueous or organic solvents.  In an organic solvent containing a small amount of water the hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide traps the aqueous portion in a micelle sphere with the polar heads facing in and the non-polar tails facing out. The relative amount of pentanol cosurfactant controls the size of the micelle.

A water-in-oil microemulsion droplet. This static picture
does not properly convey "the dynamic reality of the aggregates."
Figure based on J. Phys. Chem. 100, 3190-3198 (1996)

Mixing hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide pentanol micelles of CdCl2 with similar micelles containing Na2S produces nanoparticle CdS since the aqueous solution serves as a nanoreactor and the particles cannot grow bigger than the micelle. The pentanol also acts as a capping agent to stabilize the CdS particles. The formation of CdS nanoparticles can be detected by spectroscopy since quantum size effects make the visible absorption spectra different than that of bulk CdS.


Wear eye protection

Chemical gloves recommended

Test the reagents by adding a drop of aqueous Cd+2 to a drop of aqueous S-2. A yellow color should appear if the Na2S solution is good. If the mixture remains clear, remake the Na2S solution.

In a cuvet, add an equal amount of aqueous 0.012 M Cd+2 and aqueous 0.012 M S-2. Record your observations and immediately obtain the visible absorption spectrum (before the solution becomes too opaque.)

Discard the solution in an appropriate waste container.

Add 0.20 g hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide to a test tube. Add a stir bar. Clamp over a magnetic stirrer.

Add 4.0 mL heptane and 1.0 mL pentanol to the hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide. Stir to give a suspension.

Transfer half the suspension to a second tube. Stir both solutions to maintain the suspension.

To one test tube, add 0.1 mL (3 drops) of 0.012 M CdCl2. The solution will clear as hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide micelles containing CdCl2 form.
To the second test tube, add 0.1 mL (3 drops) of 0.012 M Na2S. The solution will clear as hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide micelles containing Na2S form.

Join the two solutions and mix. Record the visible absorption spectrum in a glass cuvet.

Discard the solution in an appropriate waste container.


CAUTION: Avoid physical contact with cadmium chloride and cadmium sulfide as both are carcinogens.


  1. Is the initial product from mixing aqueous cadmium ion with aqueous sulfide ion nanosize? Why do you need to take the spectrum quickly?
  2. Is the band gap energy of the CdS nanoparticles larger or smaller than that of bulk CdS?
  3. What is your estimated size for the CdS nanoparticles?


The x-intercept of the linear portion of the absorbance as a function of wavelength graph is a measure of Eg.

Eg = h c / λ
h = 6.626x10-34 J s
c = 2.998x108 m/s
e = 1.602x10-19 C
ε0 = 8.854x10-12 C2/N/m2
m0 = 9.110x10-31 kg

λbulk = 512 nm
ε = 5.7
me* = 0.19
mh* = 0.80

λbulk = 709 nm
ε = 10.6
me* = 0.13
mh* = 0.45

λbulk = 365 nm
ε = 8.66
me* = 0.24
mh* = 0.59

The effective mass model suggests

where r is the radius of the nanoparticle. The second term is the particle-in-a-box confinement energy for an electron-hole pair in a spherical quantum dot and the third term is the Coulomb attraction between an electron and hole modified by the screening of charges by the crystal.

After multiplying by r2, rearranging, and using the quadratic formula,

What is the diameter of the nanoparticles?

Exploring the Nanoworld   |   MRSEC Nanostructured Interfaces
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This page created by George Lisensky, Beloit College.  Last modified June 6, 2012 .