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Elastically relaxed free-standing strained-silicon nanomembranes


Strain plays a critical role in the properties of materials. In silicon and silicon–germanium, strain provides a mechanism for control of both carrier mobility and band offsets. In materials integration, strain is typically tuned through the use of dislocations and elemental composition. We demonstrate a versatile method to control strain by fabricating membranes in which the final strain state is controlled by elastic strain sharing, that is, without the formation of defects. We grow Si/SiGe layers on a substrate from which they can be released, forming nanomembranes. X-ray-diffraction measurements confirm a final strain predicted by elasticity theory. The effectiveness of elastic strain to alter electronic properties is demonstrated by low-temperature longitudinal Hall-effect measurements on a strained-silicon quantum well before and after release. Elastic strain sharing and film transfer offer an intriguing path towards complex, multiple-layer structures in which each layer’s properties are controlled elastically, without the introduction of undesirable defects.

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Figure 1: Optical microscope images of silicon nanomembranes transferred onto several substrates.
Figure 2: Membrane formation.
Figure 3: XRD reciprocal-space maps of several Si/SiGe/Si membrane conditions.
Figure 4: Electron-transport measurements in band-structure-engineered elastically strained nanomembranes.


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This research was supported by DOE, NSF-MRSEC, AFOSR, NSF-ITR, ARDA, ARO and NSA.

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Correspondence to Mark A. Eriksson.

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Three of the authors, M. M. Roberts, D. E. Savage and M. G. Lagally, are listed as inventors on U.S. Patent application #P04286US, "Fabrication of Silicon-Germanium Heterojunction Structures", filed December 16, 2004. G. Celler is employed by Soitec, a maker of silicon-on-insulator.

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Roberts, M., Klein, L., Savage, D. et al. Elastically relaxed free-standing strained-silicon nanomembranes. Nature Mater 5, 388–393 (2006).

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