In this work, we investigate the transport processes governing the metal-assisted chemical etching (MacEtch) of silicon (Si). We show that in the oxidation of Si during the MacEtch process, the transport of the hole charges can be accomplished by the diffusion of metal ions. The oxidation of Si is subsequently governed by a redox reaction between the ions and Si. This represents a fundamentally different proposition in MacEtch whereby such transport is understood to occur through hole carrier conduction followed by hole injection into (or electron extraction from) Si. Consistent with the ion transport model introduced, we showed the possibility in the dynamic redistribution of the metal atoms that resulted in the formation of pores/cracks for catalyst thin films that are ≤ 30 nm thick. As such, the transport of the reagents and by-products are accomplished via these pores/cracks for the thin catalyst films. For thicker films, we show a saturation in the etch rate demonstrating a transport process that is dominated by diffusion via metal/Si boundaries. The new understanding in transport processes described in this work reconcile competing models in reagents/by-products transport, and also solution ions and thin film etching, which can form the foundation of future studies in the MacEtch process.
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