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ACS Nano. 2010 Jun 22;4(6):3045-52. doi: 10.1021/nn1001613.

Tunable electrical properties of silicon nanowires via surface-ambient chemistry.

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  • 1Centre of Super-Diamond and Advanced Films (COSDAF) and Department of Physics and Materials Science, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China.


p-Type surface conductivity is a uniquely important property of hydrogen-terminated diamond surfaces. In this work, we report similar surface-dominated electrical properties in silicon nanowires (SiNWs). Significantly, we demonstrate tunable and reversible transition of p(+)-p-i-n-n(+) conductance in nominally intrinsic SiNWs via changing surface conditions, in sharp contrast to the only p-type conduction observed on diamond surfaces. On the basis of Si band energies and the electrochemical potentials of the ambient (pH value)-determined adsorbed aqueous layer, we propose an electron-transfer-dominated surface doping model, which can satisfactorily explain both diamond and silicon surface conductivity. The totality of our observations suggests that nanomaterials can be described as a core-shell structure due to their large surface-to-volume ratio. Consequently, controlling the surface or shell in the core-shell model represents a universal way to tune the properties of nanostructures, such as via surface-transfer doping, and is crucial for the development of nanostructure-based devices.

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