Kinetics of Individual Nucleation Events Observed in Nanoscale Vapor-Liquid-Solid Growth

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Science  14 Nov 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5904, pp. 1070-1073
DOI: 10.1126/science.1163494

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We measured the nucleation and growth kinetics of solid silicon (Si) from liquid gold-silicon (AuSi) catalyst particles as the Si supersaturation increased, which is the first step of the vapor-liquid-solid growth of nanowires. Quantitative measurements agree well with a kinetic model, providing a unified picture of the growth process. Nucleation is heterogeneous, occurring consistently at the edge of the AuSi droplet, yet it is intrinsic and highly reproducible. We studied the critical supersaturation required for nucleation and found no observable size effects, even for systems down to 12 nanometers in diameter. For applications in nanoscale technology, the reproducibility is essential, heterogeneity promises greater control of nucleation, and the absence of strong size effects simplifies process design.

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