Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Field-effect electroluminescence in silicon nanocrystals


There is currently worldwide interest in developing silicon-based active optical components in order to leverage the infrastructure of silicon microelectronics technology for the fabrication of optoelectronic devices. Light emission in bulk silicon-based devices is constrained in wavelength to infrared emission, and in efficiency by the indirect bandgap of silicon1,2. One promising strategy for overcoming these challenges is to make use of quantum-confined excitonic emission in silicon nanocrystals. A critical challenge for silicon nanocrystal devices based on nanocrystals embedded in silicon dioxide has been the development of a method for efficient electrical carrier injection3,4,5,6,7,8. We report here a scheme for electrically pumping dense silicon nanocrystal arrays by a field-effect electroluminescence mechanism. In this excitation process, electrons and holes are both injected from the same semiconductor channel across a tunnelling barrier in a sequential programming process, in contrast to simultaneous carrier injection in conventional pn-junction light-emitting-diode structures. Light emission is strongly correlated with the injection of a second carrier into a nanocrystal that has been previously programmed with a charge of the opposite sign.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Schematic of the field-effect electroluminescence mechanism in a silicon nanocrystal floating-gate transistor structure.
Figure 2: Photoluminescence (PL) and electroluminescence (EL) emission spectra.
Figure 3: Time-resolved electroluminescence.
Figure 4: Variation of electroluminescence intensity.


  1. Pavesi, L. & Lockwood, D. J. (eds) Silicon Photonics 1–52 (Topics in Applied Physics Series Vol. 94, Springer, 2004).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  2. Green, M. A., Zhao, J., Wang, A., Reece, P. & Gal, M. Efficient silicon light-emitting diodes. Nature 412 805–808 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Valenta, J., Lalic, N. & Linros, J. Electroluminescence of single silicon nanocrystals. Appl. Phys. Lett. 84 1459–1461 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Franzo, G. et al. Electroluminescence of silicon nanocrystals in MOS structures. Appl. Phys. A 74, 1–5 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Photopoulos, P. & Nassiopoulou, A. G. Room-and low-temperature voltage tunable electroluminescence from a single layer of silicon quantum dots in between two thin SiO2 layers. Appl. Phys. Lett. 77, 1816–1818 (2000).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Fujita, S. & Sugiyama, N. Visible light-emitting devices with Schottky contacts on an ultrathin amorphous silicon layer containing silicon nanocrystals. Appl. Phys. Lett. 74, 308–310 (1999).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. De la Torre, J. et al. Optical and electrical transport mechanisms in Si-nanocrystal-based LEDs. Physica E 17, 604–606 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. De la Torre, J. et al. Optical properties of silicon nanocrystal LEDs. Physica E 16, 326–330 (2003).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Hanafi, H. & Tiwari, S. Fast and long retention-time nano-crystal memory. IEEE Trans. Elec. Dev. 43, 1553–1558 (1996).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Puzder, A., Williamson, A. J., Grossman, J. C. & Galli, G. Surface control of optical properties in silicon nanoclusters. J. Chem. Phys. 117, 6721–6729 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Walters, R. J. et al. Silicon optical nanocrystal memory. Appl. Phys. Lett. 85, 2622–2624 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Linnros, J., Lalic, N., Galeckas, A. & Grivickas, V. Analysis of the stretched exponential photoluminescence decay from nanometer-sized silicon crystals in SiO2 . J. Appl. Phys. 86, 6128–6134 (1999).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Feng, T., Yu, H., Dicken, M., Heath, J. & Atwater, H. A. Probing the size and density of silicon nanocrystals in nanocrystal memory device applications. Appl. Phys. Lett. (in the press).

  14. Müeller, T., Heinig, K.-H. & Möller, W. Nanocrystal formation in Si implanted thin SiO2 layers under the influence of an absorbing interface. Mater. Sci. Eng. B 101, 49–54 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by Intel Corporation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (#FA9550-04-1-0434). R.J.W. acknowledges National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship support through the Army Research Office.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert J. Walters.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Walters, R., Bourianoff, G. & Atwater, H. Field-effect electroluminescence in silicon nanocrystals. Nature Mater 4, 143–146 (2005).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing