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Langmuir. 2008 Mar 4;24(5):1891-6. doi: 10.1021/la703331m. Epub 2008 Jan 25.

Nanometer-scale wetting of the silicon surface by its equilibrium oxide.

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  • 1Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Despite the extremely broad technical applications of the Si/SiO2 structure, the equilibrium wetting properties of silicon oxide on silicon are poorly understood. Here, we produce new results in which a solid-state buffer method is used to systematically titrate oxygen activity about the Si/SiO2 coexistence value. The equilibrium morphology at the Si(001) surface over >8 decades of PO2 about coexistence is revealed to be a uniform sub-stoichiometric SiOx film of sub-nanometer thickness, coexisting with secondary island structures which coarsen with annealing time. A new thermodynamic method using chemical potential to stabilize and control surficial oxides in nanoscale devices is suggested.

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