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The recently discovered low-load metal-assisted catalytic etching (LL-MACE) creates nanostructured Si with controllable and variable characteristics that distinguish this technique from the conventional high-load variant. LL-MACE employs 150 times less metal catalyst and produces porous Si instead of Si nanowires. In this work, we demonstrate that some of the features of LL-MACE cannot be explained by the present understanding of MACE. With mechanistic insight derived from extensive experimentation, it is demonstrated that (1) the method allows the use of not only Ag, Pd, Pt, and Au as metal catalysts but also Cu and (2) judicious combinations of process parameters such as the type of metal, Si doping levels, and etching temperatures facilitate control over yield (0.065−88%), pore size (3−100 nm), specific surface area (20−310 m2·g−1), and specific pore volume (0.05−1.05 cm3·g−1). The porous structure of the product depends on the space-charge layer, which is controlled by the Si doping and the chemical identity of the deposited metal. The porous structure was also dependent on the dynamic structure of the deposited metal. A distinctive comet-like structure of metal nanoparticles was observed after etching with Cu, Ag, Pd, and, in some cases, Pt; this structure consisted of 10−50 nm main particles surrounded by smaller (<5 nm) nanoparticles. With good scalability and precise control of structural properties, LL-MACE facilitates Si applications in photovoltaics, energy storage, biomedicine, and water purification.

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ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces




American Chemical Society




The Accepted Version of this manuscript is posted here on Digital Commons @ West Chester University. Follow the DOI link to the final published version.