Nano Letters

Growth system, structure, and doping of aluminum-seeded epitaxial silicon nanowires

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We have examined the formation of silicon nanowires grown by self-assembly from Si substrates with thin aluminum films. Postgrowth and in situ investigations using various Al deposition and annealing conditions suggest that nanowire growth takes place with a supercooled liquid droplet (i. e., the vapor-liquid-solid system), even though the growth temperatures are below the bulk Al/Si eutectic temperature. Wire morphology as a function of processing conditions is also described. It is shown that when Al environmental exposure is prevented before wire growth a wide process window for wire formation can be achieved. Under optimum growth conditions, it is possible to produce excellent crystal quality nanowires with rapid growth rates, high surface densities, low diameter dispersion, and controlled tapering. Photoelectron spectroscopy measurements indicate that the use of Al leads to active doping levels that depend on the growth temperature in as-grown nanowires and increase when annealed. We suggest that these structural and electronic properties will be relevant to photovoltaic and other applications, where the more common use of Au is believed to be detrimental to performance. © 2009 American Chemical Society.