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Structure, morphology, and photoluminescence of porous Si nanowires: effect of different chemical treatments

Ioannis Leontis1, Andreas Othonos2 and Androula G Nassiopoulou1*

Author Affiliations

1 NCSR Demokritos, IMEL, Terma Patriarchou Grigoriou, Aghia Paraskevi, Athens 153 10, Greece

2 Research Center of Ultrafast Science, Department of Physics, University of Cyprus, P.O. Box 20537, Nicosia 1678, Cyprus

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2013, 8:383  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-8-383

Published: 11 September 2013


The structure and light-emitting properties of Si nanowires (SiNWs) fabricated by a single-step metal-assisted chemical etching (MACE) process on highly boron-doped Si were investigated after different chemical treatments. The Si nanowires that result from the etching of a highly doped p-type Si wafer by MACE are fully porous, and as a result, they show intense photoluminescence (PL) at room temperature, the characteristics of which depend on the surface passivation of the Si nanocrystals composing the nanowires. SiNWs with a hydrogen-terminated nanostructured surface resulting from a chemical treatment with a hydrofluoric acid (HF) solution show red PL, the maximum of which is blueshifted when the samples are further chemically oxidized in a piranha solution. This blueshift of PL is attributed to localized states at the Si/SiO2 interface at the shell of Si nanocrystals composing the porous SiNWs, which induce an important pinning of the electronic bandgap of the Si material and are involved in the recombination mechanism. After a sequence of HF/piranha/HF treatment, the SiNWs are almost fully dissolved in the chemical solution, which is indicative of their fully porous structure, verified also by transmission electron microscopy investigations. It was also found that a continuous porous Si layer is formed underneath the SiNWs during the MACE process, the thickness of which increases with the increase of etching time. This supports the idea that porous Si formation precedes nanowire formation. The origin of this effect is the increased etching rate at sites with high dopant concentration in the highly doped Si material.

Si nanowires; Metal-assisted chemical etching; Porous silicon nanowires; Photoluminescence; Structure; Morphology