The spontaneous formation of organized nanocrystals in semiconductors has been observed1-5 during heteroepitaxial growth and chemical synthesis. The ability to fabricate size-controlled silicon nanocrystals encapsulated by insulating SiO2 would be of significant interest to the microelectronics industry. But reproducible manufacture of such crystals is hampered by the amorphous nature of SiO2 and the differing thermal expansion coefficients of the two materials. Previous attempts6-10 to fabricate Si nanocrystals failed to achieve control over their shape and crystallographic orientation, the latter property being important in systems such as Si quantum dots. Here we report the self-organization of Si nanocrystals larger than 80 Å into brick-shaped crystallites oriented along the (111) crystallographic direction. The nanocrystals are formed by the solid-phase crystallization of nanometre-thick layers of amorphous Si confined between SiO2 layers. The shape and orientation of the crystallites results in relatively narrow photoluminescence, whereas isotropic particles produce qualitatively different, broad light emission. Our results should aid the development of maskless, reproducible Si nanofabrication techniques.
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