Vapor-Liquid-Solid Etch of Semiconductor Surface Channels by Running Gold Nanodroplets
Babak Nikoobakht, Andrew A. Herzing, Shinichiro Muramoto, Jerry Tersoff
We show that Au nanoparticles spontaneously move across the (001) surface of InP, InAs, and GaP when heated in the presence of water vapor. As they move, the particles etch crystallographically aligned grooves into the surface. We show that this process is a negative analog of the vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) growth of semiconductor nanowires: semiconductor dissolves into the catalyst, and reacts with water vapor at the catalyst surface to create volatile oxides, depleting the dissolved cations and anions and so sustaining the dissolution process. This VLS etching process provides a new tool for directed assembly of structures with sub-lithographic dimensions, as small as a few nanometers in diameter. Au particles above 100 nm in size do not exhibit this process but remain stationary, with oxide accumulating around the particles.