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I am a student of masters study with a background only in electrical engineering, but I have studied Miller indices and crystallographic planes and directions, personally, to help myself understand the process of silicon etching which is required in my current course of study. But, I am unable to understand the following written in my text book:

"When Silicon is etched anisotropically, i.e. depending on crystal direction, and a {1 0 0} surface direction is used, cavities will result which have the same {1 0 0} orientation at the bottom and are determined laterally by {1 1 1} surfaces. The reason is that {1 1 1} surfaces are etched off using a minimal etch rate and this way becomes the most resistant"

Could someone please help me understand this concept.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello and Welcome to Chemistry.se! While your question is straightforward, I think it would be much appreciated if you edit in the source for your quote. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Nov 17 '14 at 2:04
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Certain types of wet etching agents have differential reactivity on different crystal surfaces. Consider that the Si-Si distance and coordination environment will be quite different.

Let's start with an isotropic etch - it just eats silicon. Well, if you started with a pinprick (i.e., just a point and not a gap in the mask) you'd etch out a hemisphere. Normally, we etch through gaps in the mask, so you'll get rounded sides.

With an anisotropic wet etch you can get flat, angular side-walls defined by crystal planes.

For instance, potassium hydroxide (KOH) displays an etch rate selectivity 400 times higher in <100> crystal directions than in <111> directions.

OK, so let's consider that etch through a gap in a mask into a <100> surface. As we go down 400 atomic layers of Si, we'll clearly have some etching along the side-walls (e.g., an "undercut"). But also consider that depending on the size of the feature for the etch, you'll go down into the <100> but not completely uniformly. Different wet anisotropic etches will have different selectivity rates between <100> and <111> and thus you get different aspect ratios.

Incidentally, dry etching (e.g., RIE, plasma) can give more vertical side-walls.

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