Generation of second harmonic radiation from sub-stoichiometric silicon nitride thin films

Enhancing second-order optical processes in Si-compatible materials is important for the demonstration of innovative functionalities and nonlinear optical devices integrated on a chip. Here, we demonstrate significantly enhanced Second-Harmonic Generation (SHG) by silicon-rich silicon nitride materials over a broad spectral range, and show a maximum conversion efficiency of 4.5 x 10-6 for sub-stoichiometric samples with 46 at. % silicon. The SHG process in silicon nitride thin films is systematically investigated over a range of material stoichiometry and thermal annealing conditions. These findings can enable the engineering of innovative Si-based devices for nonlinear signal processing and sensing applications on a Si platform.

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Rare-earth doped Si-rich ZnO for multiband near-infrared light emitting devices

We demonstrate a light emitting material platform based on rare-earth doping of Si-rich ZnO thin films by magnetron sputtering, and we investigate the near-infrared emission properties under both optical and electrical injection. Er and Nd radiative transitions were simultaneously activated due to energy transfer via the ZnO direct bandgap and its luminescent defect centers. Moreover, by incorporating Si atoms, we demonstrate Si-mediated enhancement of photoluminescence in Er-doped ZnO and electroluminescence. These results pave the way to novel Si-compatible light emitters that leverage the optically transparent and electrically conductive ZnO matrix for multiband near-IR telecom and bio-compatible applications.

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Nanopatterning of silicon nanowires for enhancing visible photoluminescence

Silicon Nanowires prepared by Metal-Assisted Chemical Etching have been nanopatterned into periodic and aperiodic array geometries displaying functionality at visible wavelengths using top-down planar processing techniques. Broadband photoluminescense enhancement up to approximately one order of magnitude is measured from golden-angle spiral arrays over a wide parameter space.

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Sub-250nm room-temperature optical gain from AlGaN/AlN multiple quantum wells with strong band-structure potential fluctuations

Deep-UV optical gain has been demonstrated in Al0.7Ga0.3N/AlN multiple quantum wells under femtosecond optical pumping. Samples were grown by molecular beam epitaxy under a growth mode that introduces band structure potential fluctuations and high-density nanocluster-like features within the AlGaN wells. A maximum net modal gain value of 118 cm-1 has been measured and the transparency threshold of 5 microJ/cm2 was experimentally determined, corresponding to 1.4 x 1017 cm-3 excited carriers. These findings pave the way for the demonstration of solid-state lasers with sub-250 nm emission at room temperature.

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Quantum confinement and electroluminescence in ultrathin silicon nanowires fabricated by a maskless etching technique

We present a novel approach for the direct synthesis of ultrathin Si nanowires (NWs) exhibiting room temperature light emission. The synthesis is based on a wet etching process assisted by a metal thin film. The thickness-dependent morphology of the metal layer produces uncovered nanometer-size regions which act as precursor sites for NW formation. The process is cheap, fast, maskless and compatible with Si technology. Very dense arrays of long (several micrometers) and small (diameter of 5–9 nm) NWs have been synthesized. An efficient room temperature luminescence, visible with the naked eye, is observed when NWs are optically excited, exhibiting a blue-shift with decreasing NW size in agreement with quantum confinement effects. A prototype device based on Si NWs has been fabricated showing a strong and stable electroluminescence at low voltages. The relevance and the perspectives of the reported results are discussed, opening the route toward novel applications of Si NWs.

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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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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