Influence of surface passivation on the photoluminescence from silicon nanocrystals

Salivati, Navneethakrishnan
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Although silicon (Si) nanostructures exhibit size dependent light emission, which can be attributed to quantum confinement, the role of surface passivation is not yet fully understood. This understanding is central to the development of nanocrystal-based detectors. This study investigated the growth, surface chemistry, passivation with deuterium (D2), ammonia (ND3) and diborane (B2D6) and the resulting optical properties of Si nanostructures. Si nanocrystals less than 6 nm in diameter are grown on SiO2 surfaces in an ultra high vacuum chamber using hot-wire chemical vapor deposition and the as grown surfaces are exposed to atomic deuterium. Temperature programmed desorption (TPD) spectra show that that the nanocrystals surfaces are covered by a mix of monodeuteride, dideuteride and trideuteride species. The manner of filling of the deuteride states on nanocrystals differs from that for extended surfaces as the formation of the dideuteride and trideuteride species is facilitated by the curvature of the nanocrystal. No photoluminescence (PL) is observed from the as grown unpassivated nanocrystals. As the deuterium dose is increased, the PL intensity also begins to increase. This can be associated with increasing amounts of mono-, di- and trideuteride species on the nanocrystal surface, which results in better passivation of the dangling bonds and relaxing of the reconstructed surface. At high deuterium doses, the surface structure breaks down and amorphization of the top layer of the nanocrystal takes place. Amorphization reduces the PL intensity. Finally, as the nanocrystal size is varied, the PL peak shifts, which is characteristic of quantum confinement. The dangling bonds and the reconstructed bonds at the NC surface are also passivated and transformed with D and NDx by using deuterated ammonia (ND3), which is predissociated over a hot tungsten filament prior to adsorption. At low hot wire ND3 doses PL emission is observed at 1000 nm corresponding to reconstructed surface bonds capped by predominantly monodeuteride and Si-ND2 species. As the hot wire ND3 dose is increased, di- and trideuteride species form and intense PL is observed around 800 nm that does not shift with NC size and is associated with defect levels resulting from NDx insertion into the strained Si-Si bonds forming Si2=ND. The PL intensity at 800 nm increases as the ND3 dose is increased and the intensity increase is correlated to increasing concentrations of deuterides. At extremely high ND3 doses PL intensity decreases due to amorphization of the NC surface. In separate experiments, Si NCs were subjected to dissociative (thermal) exposures of ammonia followed by exposures to atomic deuterium. These NCs exhibited size dependent PL and this can be attributed to the prevention of the formation of Si2=ND species. Finally, deuterium-passivated Si NCs are exposed to BDx radicals formed by dissociating deuterated diborane (B2D6) over a hot tungsten filament and photoluminescence quenching is observed. Temperature programmed desorption spectra reveal the presence of low temperature peaks, which can be attributed to deuterium desorption from surface Si atoms bonded to subsurface boron atoms. The subsurface boron likely enhances nonradiative Auger recombination.