Control of growth mechanisms and orientation in epitaxial Si nanowires grown by electron beam evaporation

The growth mechanisms of epitaxial Si nanowires (NWs) grown by electron beam evaporation (EBE) and catalyzed through gold droplets are identified. NWs are seen to grow both from adsorbed Si atoms diffusing from the substrate and forming a dip around them, and from directly impinging atoms. The growth of a 2D planar layer competing with the axial growth of the NWs is also observed and the experimental parameters determining which of the two processes prevails are identified. NWs with (111), (100) and (110) orientation have been found and the growth rate is observed to have a strong orientation dependence, suggesting a microscopic growth mechanism based on the atomic ordering along (110) ledges onto (111)-oriented terraces. By properly changing the range of experimental conditions we demonstrate how it is possible to favor the axial growth of the NWs, define their length and control their crystallographic orientation.

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Mechanism of boron diffusion in amorphous silicon

We have elucidated the mechanism for B migration in the amorphous (a-) Si network. B diffusivity in a-Si is much higher than in crystalline Si; it is transient and increases with B concentration up to 2 x 1020 B/cm3. At higher density, B atoms in a-Si quickly precipitate. B diffusion is indirect, mediated by dangling bonds (DB) present in a-Si. The density of DB is enhanced by B accommodation in the a-Si network and decreases because of a-Si relaxation. Accurate data simulations allow one to extract the DB diffusivity, whose activation energy is 2.6 eV. Implications of these results are discussed.

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Role of the Si excess on the excitation of Er doped SiOx

The authors have investigated the role of the Si excess on the photoluminescence properties of Er doped substoichiometric SiOx layers. They demonstrate that the Si excess has two competing roles: when agglomerated to form Si nanoclusters Si-nc’s it enhances the Er excitation efficiency but it also introduces new nonradiative decay channels. When Er is excited through an energy transfer from Si-nc’s, the beneficial effect on the enhanced excitation efficiency prevails and the Er emission increases with increasing Si content. However, when pumped resonantly, the Er luminescence intensity always decreases with increasing Si content. These data are presented and their implications are discussed.

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Moving technology to the market

Moving technology form the research lab to everyday life. This is my goal.
I was admitted in the Stanford iFarm program during Winter 2014. The Stanford Innovation Farm Teams Project seeks to improve success and overall efficiency of the commercialization of Stanford-owned inventions while providing an educational experience to iFarm Team participants. Participation in the iFarm Team Project provides individuals with a unique educational experience and opportunity to network in highly competitive industries.

Energy savings is the first and most important energy source. The interest of my team and mine is to find new solutions for energy awareness in residential buildings. We worked on a technology aimed to evaluate thermal building properties, predict energy consumption and claim carbon credits: A method and process to quantify energy savings and carbon offsets real­time for buildings. We explored the potential market segments, establishing for each one value propositions, partners, streams of revenue. We also designed a possible way to implement the technological platform associated with our patent.

Here is our final presentation for the program: Stanford OTL iFarm program - Team 4.

Group IV semiconductor nanowires

What is the difference between the skin of the Statue of Liberty in New York, and an electric wire? Both are made of the same material (copper), but they have different properties because of the shape. Now, get your shrinking machine and make your electric wire smaller than one of your hair. Do you expect the wire to keep the same properties? Nope, of course!

You can do really amazing thing just changing the shape and the size of any material. This is what I did to enable new light sources made of silicon. All our electronics devices are made of silicon. Unfortunately, it cannot emit light by itself. But, if you fabricate a silicon wire smaller than a virus, things will change.

I investigated the growth of silicon and germanium nanowires by a self-assembled method, using electron beam evaporation. This is a relatively unexploited technique that offers a pathway towards high throughput production. By properly varying the experimental parameters of the evaporation it is possible to define the length, density and crystallographic orientation of the wires. The structural properties have been correlated to the atomistic growth mechanism. Moreover, we explored the possibility to bend and restore the wires. Ion beam irradiation amorphizes the nanowires, causing their bending in the direction opposite to the beam. A full recovery is possible after thermal annealing.

I explored a top-down approach as well. Metal-Assisted Chemical Etching is a full VLSI compatible process to grow very thin nanowires of arbitrary length and controlled doping. Room-temperature photoluminescence and electroluminescence has been demonstrated from silicon nanowires. Moreover, I introduced an innovative approach, based on the combination of standard Electron Beam Lithography and reactive ion etching, for nanopatterning nanowires in any arbitrary geometry. We demonstrate broadband photoluminescence enhancement up to approximately one order of magnitude after a reliable engineering of periodic and aperiodic array patterns.

These projects have been funded partly by University of Catania and CSFNSM (Growth and characterization of Si and Ge nanowires), and performed during my PhD course.

Publication output

Book / Book chapter

Conference participation

  • E-MRS Fall Meeting 2010 – Warsaw (PL) September 13-17, 2010 Oral presentation, Symposium E
  • International School on “Materials for Renewable Energies” – Erice (TP, Italy) May 28 – June 2, 2010 Poster session
  • E-MRS 2009 – Strasbourg (F) June 8-12, 2009 Oral presentation, Symposium I
  • NODE International Summer School – Cortona (AR, Italy) July 1-5, 2008 Poster session
  • XV International Winter School on “New Developments in Solid State Physics” – Bad HofGastein (Salzburg, AT) February 18-22, 2008
  • XIII National School of Materials Science – Bressanone (Bz, Italy) September 30 – October 9, 2007 Poster session
  • XV International conference on “Ion Beam Modification of Materials” – Taormina (ME, Italy) September 18-22, 2006 Poster session

Sub-250 nm optical gain

Room temperature deep-UV optical gain has been demonstrated in AlGaN/AlN multiple quantum wells structure with strong band-structure potential fluctuations grown by Molecular Beam Epitaxy. A maximum net modal gain of 118 cm-1 has been measured and the transparency threshold of 5 µJ/cm2 was experimentally determined. Amplified Spontaneous Emission results strongly TE-polarized.

This work has been funded by DARPA – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency CMUVT Program under subcontract from Photon Systems Inc. (2011, March – 2012, March) and performed at Boston University.

Publication output

Conference proceedings

  • Sub-250nm room temperature optical gain from AlGaN materials with strong compositional fluctuations
    E. F. Pecora, W. Zhang, H. Sun, A. Yu. Nikiforov, J. Yin, R. Paiella, T. D. Moustakas, L. Dal Negro
    Bulletin of the American Physical Society, vol. 58, V1.00111
  • Sub-250nm room temperature optical gain from AlGaN/AlN multiple quantum wells structures
    E. F. Pecora, W. Zhang, L. Zhou, D. J. Smith, J. Yin, R. Paiella, L. Dal Negro, T. D. Moustakas
    CLEO: Science and Innovations, CTh3D, CTh3D.5
  • Sub-250nm room-temperature optical gain from AlGaN/AlN multiple quantum dot structures
    E. F. Pecora, W. Zhang, L. Zhou, D. J. Smith, J. Yin, R. Paiella, L. Dal Negro, T. D. Moustakas
    Bulletin of the American Physical Society, vol. 57
  • Room temperature low threshold stimulated emission of electron beam-pumped AlGaN-based deep UV laser structures emitting below 250 nm
    A. Nikiforov, W. Zhang, J. Woodward, J. Yin, E. Pecora, L. Zhou, L. Dal Negro, R. Paiella, D. Smith, T. Moustakas, A. Moldawer
    Bulletin of the American Physical Society, vol. 57

Conference participation

  • APS March Meeting 2013 – Baltimore, MD (USA) March 18 – 22, 2013 Poster presentation, Session V1
  • CLEO Conference 2012 – San Jose, CA (USA) May 6 – 11, 2012 Oral presentation, Session “Low-dimensional Photonic Structures”
  • APS March Meeting 2012 – Boston, MA (USA) February 27 – March 2, 2012 Oral presentation, Session L28

Stanford Leader in Communication

Stanford Leaders in Communication helps learning techniques to show the real value of research findings and recruit others to your cause. In addition to becoming experts in various fields, leaders need to promote their work and influence others. Through practice at weekly meetings, we quickly learn to apply these techniques automatically even in high stakes situations. We also have the opportunity to role-play real scenarios to improve your negotiation and Q&A skills. The goal is to give club members the ability to promote research results in a meaningful and persuasive way so other scientists recognize the value of your research rather than overlook your work.
Our motto is: Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done, because he wants to do it (D. Eisenhower).


  • Group facilitator for a workshop on job interviewing communication skills at AWIS (Fall 2014)
  • Group facilitator for a communication and persuasion workshop at StartX (Fall 2014)
  • Selected by the Associate Director of Curriculum Development of the Stanford School of Medicine Career Center as a group facilitator for the class INDE231A – Academic Interviews: Workshop and Clinic (Fall 2014)
  • Selected by the Director of the Stanford Interdisciplinary Life Science Communications as a group facilitator for a scientific pitch training workshop for 3rd year Stanford grad students (Spring 2014)
  • Admitted to participate to the workshop: How to Create a Compelling LinkedIn Profile
  • Admitted to participate to the workshop: Persuasive Email Writing
  • Group facilitator for the workshop: How to Craft a Compelling Research Statement Workshop
  • Admitted to participate to the workshop: Personal branding