Formation of Compositionally Abrupt Axial Heterojunctions in Silicon-Germanium Nanowires

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Science  27 Nov 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5957, pp. 1247-1250
DOI: 10.1126/science.1178606

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Sharp Nanowires

The potential for using nanowires in devices can be limited by the ability to synthesize them from two or more materials while maintaining compositional purity at the interfaces. Instead of using liquid droplets at the eutectic point when the melting point is at a minimum, Wen et al. (p. 1247) show that generating the wires at solid alloy catalysts allows fabrication of silicon germanium wires with atomically sharp interfaces. The system works well because an AlAu alloy composition was chosen in which Si and Ge have a low solubility but which have a high enough eutectic temperature so that nanowire growth is not limited by the reactivity of the Si and Ge precursors.


We have formed compositionally abrupt interfaces in silicon-germanium (Si-Ge) and Si-SiGe heterostructure nanowires by using solid aluminum-gold alloy catalyst particles rather than the conventional liquid semiconductor–metal eutectic droplets. We demonstrated single interfaces that are defect-free and close to atomically abrupt, as well as quantum dots (i.e., Ge layers tens of atomic planes thick) embedded within Si wires. Real-time imaging of growth kinetics reveals that a low solubility of Si and Ge in the solid particle accounts for the interfacial abruptness. Solid catalysts that can form functional group IV nanowire-based structures may yield an extended range of electronic applications.

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