Scientific description

The emergency of data-intensive technological areas has generated an urgent need of implementing optical telecommunication functionalities in group IV materials, encouraging researchers to develop novel direct bandgap systems — where recombination of electrons and holes occurs with the same momentum — while keeping their compatibility with Si CMOS electronics. Among the variety of materials investigated, hexagonal-diamond Si1-xGex alloyed nanowires (2H-Si1-
xGex NWs) seem extremely attractive due to their easiness of fabrication and peculiar optical features. Indeed, although 2H-Si bulk is stable only at pressures larger than 12 GPa, recent studies demonstrated that, at the nanoscale, 2H-SiGe crystals can exist as pure wires. These nanostructures offer the unique possibility to combine an indirect semiconductor (2H-Si) with a direct one (2H-Ge) to obtain a light-emitting direct bandgap material between 1.3-1.8 μm. In fact, photoluminescence proved that increasing the Ge fraction (xGe) in 2H-Si lowers the minimum of the conduction band at Γ until the bandgap becomes direct — with an allowed optical transition — for xGe larger than 0.65.

Despite these significant advances, the potentialities of 2H-Si1-xGex NWs remain widely unexplored and a unified description of their optical response is fundamentally lacking. On the one hand, current modelling techniques used, though accurate, cannot take into account the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic parameters on the NW dielectric response because of the high computational demand and convergence problems. On the other hand, most of the optical experimental characterization of such complex NWs is affected by an intrinsic significant difficulty in separating the effect of different physical environmental variables. In this regard, since ultra-high-resolution STEM-EELS allows for the investigation of individual nano-objects it can hence provide unique information that to a considerable degree is obscured in results from many optical spectroscopic methods.

The main breakthrough of the AMPHORE project is to investigate, through the effectual combination of ab initio approaches, semi-empirical methods, and computer simulations, the great potential as light emitters of 2H-Si1-xGex NWs in close connection with advanced nanometer-scale optical measurements. The proposal presents two key challenging objectives: (i) the deep theoretical understanding, via precise quantum-mechanical modelling beyond the state-of-the-art, of the dielectric response of 2H-Si1-xGex NWs in a realistic environment, including morphology, substrates, and dopants and (ii) the accurate interpretation and design of targeted experiments using advanced nanometer-scale optical measurements with STEM-EELS.

Project coordinator
Michele Amato

ANR funding

253 844,76 euros

Beginning and duration of the scientific project

October 2021 – 42 Months