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Unraveling the mechanism of maskless nanopatterning of black-silicon by CF4/H2 plasma reactive ion etching

Ghezzi Francesco; Pedroni Matteo; Kovac Janez; Causa Federica; Cremona Anna; Anderle Mariano; Caniello Roberto; Pietralunga Silvia M.; Vassallo Espedito

The process of deep texturization of the crystalline silicon surface is intimately related to its promising diverse applications, such as bactericidal surfaces for integrated lab-on-chip devices and absorptive optical layers (black silicon?BSi). Surface structuring by a maskless texturization appeals as a cost-effective approach, which is up-scalable for large-area production. In the case of silicon, it occurs by means of reactive plasma processes (RIE?reactive-ion etching) using fluorocarbon CF4 and H2 as reaction gases, leading to self-assembled cylindrical and pyramidal nanopillars. The mechanism of silicon erosion has been widely studied and described as it is for the masked RIE process. However, the onset of the erosion and the reaction kinetics leading to defined maskless patterning have not been unraveled to date. In this work, we specifically tackle this issue by analyzing the results of three different RIE recipes, specifically designed for the purpose. The mechanism of surface self-nanopatterning is revealed by deeply investigating the physical chemistry of the etching process at the nanoscale and the evolution of surface morphology. We monitored the progress in surface patterning and the composition of the etching plasma at different times during the RIE process. We confirm that nanopattering issues from a net erosion, as contributed by chemical etching, physical sputtering, and by the synergistic plasma effect. We propose a qualitative model to explain the onset, the evolution, and the stopping of the process. As the RIE process is started, a high density of surface defects is initially created at the free silicon surface by energetic ion sputtering. Contextually, a polymeric overlayer is synthesized on the Si surface, as thick as 5 nm on average, and self-aggregates into nanoclusters. The latter phenomenon can be explained by considering that the initial creation of surface defects increases the activation energy for surface diffusion of deposited CF and CF2 species and prevents them from aggregating into a continuous Volmer-Weber polymeric film. The clusterization of the polymer provides the self-masking effect since the beginning, which eventually triggers surface patterning. Once started, the maskless texturing proceeds in analogy with the masked case, that is, by combined chemical etching and ion sputtering, and ceases because of the loss of ion energy. In the case of CF4/H2 RIE processes at 10% of H2 and by supplying 200 W of RF power for 20 min, nanopillars of 200 nm in height and 100 nm in width were formed. We therefore propose that a precise assessment of surface defect formation and density in dependence on the initial RIE process parameters can be the key to open a full control of outcomes of maskless patterning.

ID 469330
DOI 10.1021/acsomega.2c02740
PRODUCT TYPE Journal Article
LAST UPDATE 2023-07-04T16:32:41Z