High photoluminescence (PL) quantum yields reported from amorphous (a-Si) and crystalline (c-Si) nanoparticles have opened up lots of possibilities for use of silicon in optical applications such as light emitting diodes (LEDs), photonics and solar cells with added processing and cost benefits. However, the PL response and the mechanisms behind it are highly dependent on the matrix in which the nanoparticles are grown and on the growth method. While, the bottom-up approach for deposition of free standing nanoparticles seem to be perfectly suited for large area deposition for LED and solar cell applications, the dominant growth techniques (laser ablation and pyrolysis) have been shown to suffer from limitations in control over size distribution of nanoparticles and the requirement of equipment capable of withstanding high temperature. This led to the exploration of plasma based synthesis methods in this work.
Towards this effort, the development and automation of a novel tool “Anny” for synthesis of silicon nanoparticles using non-thermal plasma chamber is reported. These nanoparticles are then accelerated due to choked flow through a nozzle leading to substrate independent deposition. The nanoparticle properties are characterized against precursor gas flow rates and RF power to identify the optimum growth conditions for a stable, continuous deposition. It is found that amorphous nanoparticles offer a wide variety of chamber conditions for growth with a high throughput, stable plasma for continuous, long term operations.
The quantum confinement model for crystalline and spatial confinement models for amorphous nanoparticles in our size regime (6-8nm) are suggested for free standing nanoparticles and we report a high PL output from well passivated amorphous nanoparticles.
The PL output and its dependence on stability of surface hydrogen passivation is explored using Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). It is shown that the amorphous nanoparticles have a better and more stable passivation compared to crystalline nanoparticles grown under similar conditions. Hence, we show a-Si nanoparticles as exciting alternatives for optical applications to c-Si nanoparticles.