Silicon nanostructures are fabricated from single-crystal silicon by an electroless chemical etch process.

Porous silicon nanowires are fabricated by two-step, metal-assisted electroless chemical etching of p-type or n-type silicon wafers. This method, in combination with nanolithography or nanopatterning, can be applied to fabricate porous silicon nanostructures of different shapes and sizes, such as nanorods, nanobelts, nanostrips, and nanochains. The specific resistivity of the silicon substrate, and composition of the etching solution, determine the porosity and pore size or lack thereof of the resulting nanostructures. Silicon doping, type of metal catalyst, concentrations of H2O2, and solvent all affect the formation of porous nanostructures at various resistivity ranges of silicon. A phase diagram summarizing the relation of porosification and doping, metal, concentrations of H2O2, and solvent can be generated.

In this innovation, high-aspect-ratio porous silicon nanostructures, such as those previously mentioned, were fabricated from single-crystal silicon by an electroless chemical etch process. A metal film, metal nanofeatures, or metal nanoparticles were coated on the silicon substrate first, and a solution of HF and hydrogen peroxide was then used to anisotropically etch the silicon to form the porous silicon nanostructures. Up to hundreds of micron-long high-aspect-ratio porous silicon nanostructures can be fabricated, and the patterns of the cross-section of porous silicon structures can be controlled by photolithography, nanolithography, or nanoparticle-assisted patterning. The porosity is related to the resistivity range of the silicon substrate, the metal catalysts, the chemical concentration, and the additive solvent. The fabricated porous silicon nanostructure is biodegradable, and the degradation time can be controlled by surface treatments.

Porous silicon nanowires can be fabricated with a two-step process. A nanostructured metal layer can be deposited on a silicon substrate by an electroless chemical deposition or electrochemical deposition. This step determines the shape of the final nanowires. Alternatively, metal nanoparticles can be spun on the silicon surface to form a metal layer, or a metal layer can be physically or chemically deposited on the silicon through a nanopatterned mask. The metal-coated silicon can be etched in a solution of HF, water, and H2O2 to produce porous silicon nanowires. Solvent can be added to the solution to modulate the features of the porous silicon nanowires.

This work was done by Mauro Ferrari, Xuewu Liu, and Ciro Chappini of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact the JSC Innovation Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

The University of Texas
Health and Science Center at Houston
Office of Technology Management
7000 Fannin Street, Suite 720
Houston, TX 77030


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