What a difference a bond makes: The structural, chemical, and physical properties of methyl-terminated Si(111) surfaces

Keith T. Wong, Nathan S. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


ConspectusThe chemical, electronic, and structural properties of surfaces are affected by the chemical termination of the surface. Two-step halogenation/alkylation of silicon provides a scalable, wet-chemical method for grafting molecules onto the silicon surface. Unlike other commonly studied wet-chemical methods of surface modification, such as self-assembly of monolayers on metals or hydrosilylation on silicon, the two-step method enables attachment of small alkyl chains, even methyl groups, to a silicon surface with high surface coverage and homogeneity. The methyl-terminated Si(111) surface, by comparison to hydrogen-terminated Si(111), offers a unique opportunity to study the effects of the first surface bond connecting the overlayer to the surface. This Account describes studies of methyl-terminated Si(111), which have shown that the H-Si(111) and CH3-Si(111) surfaces are structurally nearly identical, yet impart significantly different chemical and electronic properties to the resulting Si surface.The structure of methyl-terminated Si(111) formed by a two-step halogenation/methylation process has been studied by a variety of spectroscopic methods. A covalent Si-C bond is oriented normal to the surface, with the methyl group situated directly atop a surface Si atom. Multiple spectroscopic methods have shown that methyl groups achieve essentially complete coverage of the surface atoms while maintaining the atomically flat, terraced structure of the original H-Si(111) surface. Thus, the H-Si(111) and CH3-Si(111) surface share essentially identical structures aside from the replacement of a Si-H bond with a Si-C bond.Despite their structural similarity, hydrogen and methyl termination exhibit markedly different chemical passivation. Specifically, CH3-Si(111) exhibits significantly greater oxidation resistance than H-Si(111) in air and in aqueous electrolyte under photoanodic current flow. Both surfaces exhibit similar thermal stability in vacuum, and the Si-H and Si-C bond strengths are expected to be very similar, so the results suggest that methyl termination presents a greater kinetic barrier to oxidation of the underlying Si surface. Hydrogen termination of Si(111) provides nearly perfect electronic passivation of surface states (i.e., less than 1 electronic defect per 40 million surface atoms), but this electronic passivation is rapidly degraded by oxidation in air or under electrochemical conditions. In contrast, methyl termination provides excellent electronic passivation that resists degradation due to oxidation. Moreover, alkylation modifies the surface electronic structure by creating a surface dipole that effectively changes the electron affinity of the Si surface, facilitating modification of the charge-transfer kinetics across Si/metal or Si/electrolyte junctions.This Account also briefly describes recent studies of mixed monolayers formed by the halogenation/alkylation of silicon. Mixed monolayers allow attachment of bulkier groups that enable secondary chemistry at the surface (e.g., attachment of molecular catalysts or seeding of atomic layer deposition) to be combined with methyl termination of remaining unreacted surface sites. Thus, secondary chemistry can be enabled while maintaining the chemical and electronic passivation provided by complete termination of surface atoms with Si-C bonds. Such studies of mixed monolayers demonstrate the potential use of a wet-chemical surface modification scheme that combines both chemical and electronic passivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3037-3044
Number of pages8
JournalAccounts of chemical research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 21 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)

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