The Trouble with 1-Octadecene; Polymerization During Nanocrystal Synthesis

1-octadecene is a widely used solvent for high temperature nanocrystal synthesis (120 – 320 °C). Here, we show that 1-octadecene spontaneously polymerizes under these conditions and the resulting poly(1-octadecene) has a comparable solubility and size to nanocrystals stabilized by hydrophobic ligands. Typical purification procedures (precipitation/redispersion cycles or size exclusion chromatography) fail to separate the poly(1-octadecene) impurity from the nanocrystal product. To avoid formation of poly(1-octadecene), we replaced 1-octadecene with saturated, aliphatic solvents. Alternatively, the native ligands are exchanged for polar ligands, leading to significant solubility differences between nanocrystals and poly(1-octadecene), therefore allowing isolation of pure nanocrystals, free from polymer impurities. These results will help design superior syntheses and improve nanocrystal purity, an important factor in many applications.