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Investigations on Diamond Nanostructuring of Different Morphologies by the Reactive-Ion Etching Process and Their Potential Applications

Kunuku, Srinivasu, Sankaran, Kamatchi Jothiramalingam, Tsai, Cheng-Yen, Chang, Wen-Hao, Tai, Nyan-Hwa, Leou, Keh-Chyang, Lin, I-Nan
ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2013 v.5 no.15 pp. 7439-7449
carbon, gold, nanocrystals, oxygen, photoluminescence
We report the systematic studies on the fabrication of aligned, uniform, and highly dense diamond nanostructures from diamond films of various granular structures. Self-assembled Au nanodots are used as a mask in the self-biased reactive-ion etching (RIE) process, using an O₂/CF₄ process plasma. The morphology of diamond nanostructures is a close function of the initial phase composition of diamond. Cone-shaped and tip-shaped diamond nanostructures result for microcrystalline diamond (MCD) and nanocrystalline diamond (NCD) films, whereas pillarlike and grasslike diamond nanostructures are obtained for Ar-plasma-based and N₂-plasma-based ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) films, respectively. While the nitrogen-incorporated UNCD (N-UNCD) nanograss shows the most-superior electron-field-emission properties, the NCD nanotips exhibit the best photoluminescence properties, viz, different applications need different morphology of diamond nanostructures to optimize the respective characteristics. The optimum diamond nanostructure can be achieved by proper choice of granular structure of the initial diamond film. The etching mechanism is explained by in situ observation of optical emission spectrum of RIE plasma. The preferential etching of sp²-bonded carbon contained in the diamond films is the prime factor, which forms the unique diamond nanostructures from each type of diamond films. However, the excited oxygen atoms (O*) are the main etching species of diamond film.