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Open Access Nano Express

Impact of AFM-induced nano-pits in a-Si:H films on silicon crystal growth

Elisseos Verveniotis*, Bohuslav Rezek, Emil Šípek, Jiří Stuchlík, Martin Ledinský and Jan Kočka

Author Affiliations

Institute of Physics ASCR, Cukrovarnicka 10, 16253, Prague 6, Czech Republic

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2011, 6:145  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-6-145

Published: 15 February 2011

Abstract

Conductive tips in atomic force microscopy (AFM) can be used to localize field-enhanced metal-induced solid-phase crystallization (FE-MISPC) of amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) at room temperature down to nanoscale dimensions. In this article, the authors show that such local modifications can be used to selectively induce further localized growth of silicon nanocrystals. First, a-Si:H films by plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition on nickel/glass substrates are prepared. After the FE-MISPC process, yielding both conductive and non-conductive nano-pits in the films, the second silicon layer at the boundary condition of amorphous and microcrystalline growth is deposited. Comparing AFM morphology and current-sensing AFM data on the first and second layers, it is observed that the second deposition changes the morphology and increases the local conductivity of FE-MISPC-induced pits by up to an order of magnitude irrespective of their prior conductivity. This is attributed to the silicon nanocrystals (<100 nm) that tend to nucleate and grow inside the pits. This is also supported by micro-Raman spectroscopy.