Method for Fabricating Ultra-Thin and Ultra-Dense Silicon Nanowire Arrays

Nanotechnologies : Physical Science Apps

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  • Paul Ho, Ph.D. , Mechanical Engineering
  • Zhuojie Wu , Physics

Background/unmet need

Because of their chemical and physical properties, silicon nanowires (SiNWs) have been well-regarded in the scientific community as attractive building blocks for the future of nanoelectronics, opto-electronics, chemical and bio sensors, energy conversion, and storage and drug delivery devices. However, the current methods and technologies used today to manufacture SiNWs are inadequate for large-scale fabrication, due to the cost and complexity of producing units of 100 nanometers in width or less, a specification that is critical for widespread adoption of the technology.

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin Microelectronics Research Center aim to remove that limitation, with the discovery and perfection of a decidedly less complicated and costly process that creates these materials at a width tunable between 5 to 100 nanometers.

Invention Description

The invention is a novel, three-step process for fabrication of silicon nanowires. It starts with a metal film deposition on a substrate comprising Si. Then the metal film is treated to form a nanoscale interconnected metal network. The SiNWs are formed during the following Si etch process where the metal network works as catalyst.


  • Ultrathin SiNWs with ultrahigh density
  • Tunable width
  • A simplified, lower-cost process than what is commonly used today
  • Versatility for a variety of different applications


  • Performed at low temperatures (room temperature to 100°C)
  • Can produce widths of as little as -5nm
  • Works on a single crystalline wafer, but also on polycrystalline or amorphous silicon substrates
  • Exhibits extremely low reflectance

Market potential/applications

Lithium-ion battery anodes; Thermoelectric material; Solar Cells; Sensors; Drug Delivery 

Development Stage

Proof of concept

IP Status

  • 1 U.S. patent application filed