The common practice for nickel silicide formation in silicon nanowires (SiNWs) relies on axial growth of silicide along the wire that is initiated from nickel reservoirs at the source and drain contacts. In the present work the silicide intrusions were studied for various parameters including wire diameter (25-50 nm), annealing time (15-120 s), annealing temperature (300- 440°), and the quality of the initial Ni/Si interface. The silicide formation was investigated by high-resolution scanning electron microscopy, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and atomic force microscopy. The main part of the intrusion formed at 420° consists of monosilicide NiSi, as was confirmed by energy dispersive spectroscopy STEM, selected area diffraction TEM, and electrical resistance measurements of fully silicided SiNWs. The kinetics of nickel silicide axial growth in the SiNWs was analyzed in the framework of a diffusion model through constrictions. The model calculates the time dependence of the intrusion length, L, and predicts crossover from linear to square root time dependency for different wire parameters, as confirmed by the experimental data. © 2011 American Institute of Physics.