Understanding the evolution of porous silicon (PS) layers at the early stages of growth is important for determining the mechanism of PS film growth and controlling the film properties. We have used X-ray reflectivity (XRR) to determine the evolution of layer thickness and interfacial roughness during the growth of thin PS layers (< 200 nm) prepared by electrochemical anodization. The porous layer grows at a constant rate for films as thin as 15 nm indicating a very short incubation period during which the surface may be electropolished before the PS structure begins to form. Interface roughness measurements indicate that the top surface of the film remains relatively smooth during growth while the roughness of the PS/silicon interface increases only slightly with film thickness. The XRR results are compared with results obtained from the same films by cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy (XTEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM) and gravimetry.
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