POROUS AND NANOPOROUS SEMICONDUCTOR MATERIALS AND MANUFACTURE THEREOF
1. A porous semiconductor material comprising:
- a semiconductor material; and
a plurality of pores in the semiconductor material, the plurality of pores having an average pore diameter of less than 20 nm, and wherein the plurality of pores define a total volumetric porosity, measured as the total pore volume divided by the total pore volume plus solid material volume, of at least 0.1%,wherein at least 0.05% of the pores pass through the material from one surface to an opposite or different surface, andwherein the material has a thickness which is the material'"'"'s minimum cross-section and which thickness is at least 0.05 micron.
Methods for forming porous or nanoporous semiconductor materials are described. The methods allow for the formation of arrays pores or nanopores in semiconductor materials with advantageous pore size, spacing, pore volume, material thickness, and other aspects. Porous and nanoporous materials also are provided.
- 1. A porous semiconductor material comprising:
a semiconductor material; and a plurality of pores in the semiconductor material, the plurality of pores having an average pore diameter of less than 20 nm, and wherein the plurality of pores define a total volumetric porosity, measured as the total pore volume divided by the total pore volume plus solid material volume, of at least 0.1%, wherein at least 0.05% of the pores pass through the material from one surface to an opposite or different surface, and wherein the material has a thickness which is the material'"'"'s minimum cross-section and which thickness is at least 0.05 micron.
- View Dependent Claims (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15)
- 16. A method for forming a nanoporous patterned material, the method comprising:
covering a portion of a material with a nanoporous semiconductor membrane; and etching the portion of the material through the nanoporous semiconductor membrane, wherein the nanoporous semiconductor membrane comprises pores having an average pore diameter less than 20 nm and an average aspect ratio of greater than 500;
- View Dependent Claims (17, 18, 19)
This application claims the benefit under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 62/653,266, filed on Apr. 5, 2018, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
This application also incorporates by reference, in its entirety, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/462,620, filed Mar. 17, 2017 and published as U.S. Patent Publication No. US 2017/0271459 on Sep. 21, 2017.
Aspects described herein relate generally to porous and/or nanoporous semiconductor materials and related methods and applications.
The production of nanoporous semiconductor materials is important for many current and potential applications including nanofiltration, thermoelectrics, battery electrodes, photovoltaics, and catalysis. In each of these and other applications, nanoporous semiconductors having decreased pore sizes, decreased inter-pore spacing, and increased pore aspect ratios have been found to be advantageous. However, despite current advancements in nanofabrication technology, nanoporous semiconductor materials are nearing the limits of the accessible parameter space with respect to these design variables.
Accordingly improved methods are needed for producing nanoporous semiconductor materials.
The current disclosure is related to the synthesis of nanoporous semiconductor materials. Certain embodiments are related to synthesis techniques utilizing metal-assisted chemical etching methods.
In one embodiment, a porous semiconductor material comprises a semiconductor material and a plurality of pores in the semiconductor material. The plurality of pores have an average pore diameter of less than 20 nm, and the plurality of pores define a total volumetric porosity, measured as the total pore volume divided by the total pore volume plus solid material volume, of at least 0.1%. At least 0.05% of the pores pass through the material from one surface to an opposite or different surface, and the material has a thickness which is the material'"'"'s minimum cross-section and which thickness is at least 0.05 micron.
In another embodiment, a method for forming a nanoporous patterned material comprises covering a portion of a material with a nanoporous semiconductor membrane, and etching the portion of the material through the nanoporous semiconductor membrane. The nanoporous semiconductor membrane comprises pores having an average pore diameter less than 20 nm and an average aspect ratio of greater than 500:1.
Other advantages and novel features of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of various non-limiting embodiments of the invention when considered in conjunction with the accompanying figures. In cases where the present specification and a document incorporated by reference include conflicting and/or inconsistent disclosure, the present specification shall control.
Non-limiting embodiments will be described by way of example with reference to the accompanying figures, which are schematic and are not intended to be drawn to scale. In the figures, each identical or nearly identical component illustrated is typically represented by a single numeral. For purposes of clarity, not every component is labeled in every figure, nor is every component of each embodiment of the invention shown where illustration is not necessary to allow those of ordinary skill in the art to understand the invention. In the figures:
The inventors have recognized and appreciated that current nanofabrication techniques are not always well suited for producing nanoporous semiconductor materials in a scalable manner while retaining the ability to finely control the morphology of the resulting nanoporous semiconductor material. For example, current state-of-the-art electron beam lithography coupled with deep reactive ion etching was recently demonstrated to be capable of fabricating nanobarrel structures with a wall thickness of 6.7 nm and aspect ratio of 50:1. While potentially viable for the fabrication of specific components in nanoelectronics, the extremely high costs and long processing times of electron beam lithography limits the technique to device sizes of square microns, and therefore it is not an appropriate technique for any of the above-mentioned applications which require larger device sizes. Block copolymer lithography has received significant attention as a more scalable alternative to electron beam lithography, and was recently utilized in conjunction with plasma etching to produce sub-10 nm features with aspect ratios of 17:1. However, both techniques still require bombardment of the substrate with ions in a vacuum, and consequently, they are intrinsically limited in their ability to be integrated into a high throughput manufacturing process such as that required for the previously mentioned applications.
Solution-based techniques have also been explored as alternatives to lithography-based techniques. For example, metal-assisted chemical etching (MACE) is an electrochemical technique that relies on noble metal-catalyzed anisotropic etching of nanopores in semiconductor materials via a simple, scalable, and low cost solution-based process. For example, the general reaction mechanism can be explained as follows for a gold catalyst deposited on the surface of a silicon (Si) substrate and placed in an aqueous solution of hydrofluoric acid (HF) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). H2O2 is first reduced at the nanoparticle surface in what constitutes the cathode reaction. Holes (h+) are generated in this reduction and diffuse from the particle to the Si substrate, which is subsequently oxidized and dissolved by the HF at the anode. The overall reaction also involves the reduction of protons (H+) into hydrogen, which is released as gas (H2). As etching progresses, the gold nanoparticles maintain their proximity to the Si via van der Waals interactions, thus continuing to catalyze the reaction.
MACE has recently been the focus of a large body of work in which noble metal patterns are implemented in the etching of positive features such as nanowires, and negative features including nanopores. Common methods of forming negative nanopores via MACE include deposition of colloidal nanoparticle catalysts on a semiconductor surface, deposition and de-wetting of thin films, or growth from solution. Of these techniques, the deposition of pre-synthesized noble metal nanoparticles by drop-casting or similar methods affords the greatest degree of control over catalyst size, monodispersity, and position. While this process is intrinsically low cost and very scalable, the etching mobility of nanoparticles along crystallographic orientations is far more difficult to control than interconnected lithographically defined, sputtered, or grown patterns with interfaces planar to the substrates. This has been found to result in wandering of the particles laterally and partial loss of anisotropy, leading to significant variation in the pore depth and direction. Causes of this phenomenon may include the non-spherical nature of the particles, dislodging of the particles by the produced hydrogen gas, and non-homogenous injection of holes from the particles into the surrounding semiconductor material. This challenge is compounded for very small nanoparticles, as their shapes become dominated by faceting and no longer resemble spheres.
In view of the above, the inventors have recognized and appreciated numerous benefits associated with methods for producing nanoporous semiconductor materials that overcome the above-noted drawbacks associated with conventional lithographic and MACE techniques. For example, methods described herein may allow for the production of nanoporous semiconductor materials with smaller pore sizes, smaller inter-pore spacing, and larger pore aspect ratios compared to existing methods while also being scalable to larger areas and device sizes.
In addition to the above, the inventors have appreciated that the nanoporous semiconductor materials described herein may be utilized in connection with numerous applications, including, but not limited to, masking and patterning, membrane filtration applications, and sensing, catalysis, and in electronic devices. In particular, the inventors have appreciated that in many of these applications, precise control over porosity, pore size, and/or pore location may be important to obtain desired mechanical, thermal, electrical, and/or transport properties. As discussed further below, the methods and materials described herein may allow for such control over the pore characteristics of nanoporous semiconductor materials such that they may be used in the above-noted applications.
According to some embodiments, a method for producing a nanoporous semiconductor material includes positioning a plurality of nanoparticles onto the surface of a semiconductor substrate (e.g., by drop casting from a solution of nanoparticles) and allowing the nanoparticles to self-assemble into a close-packed monolayer array via solvent evaporation. Each of the nanoparticles includes a sacrificial spacer layer surrounding a smaller noble metal nanoparticle core. For example, in certain embodiments the noble metal nanoparticle core may include gold, silver, platinum, and/or palladium, and the sacrificial spacer layer may be an oxide such as silica (SiO2). After the semiconductor material coated with a layer of nanoparticles, it is immersed in an etching solution (e.g., a MACE solution containing an acid such as hydrofluoric acid and an oxidizer such as hydrogen peroxide), and the sacrificial spacer layer is partially or fully removed, leaving behind a well-spaced array of noble metal nanoparticles (containing some residual, or no, sacrificial material) on the surface of the semiconductor. Accordingly, the sacrificial spacer layers maintain a minimum separation between the noble metal nanoparticles during deposition and self-assembly. The inventors have found that these spaced-apart noble metal nanoparticles may subsequently catalyze etching into the semiconductor surface to form nanopores with smaller diameters, smaller inter-pore spacing, and large pore aspect rations compared to those achievable with conventional solution-based etching techniques. Without wishing to be bound by any particular theory, the size of the etched pores and the inter-pore spacing may be controlled by the controlling the size of the catalytic noble metal nanoparticle, and thickness of the sacrificial spacer layer, respectively.
In certain embodiments, a method of forming a nanoporous semiconductor material includes positioning a plurality of noble-metal-containing nanoparticles are positioned proximate a semiconductor substrate. As used herein, the nanoparticles being positioned proximate the semiconductor substrate generally refers to the nanoparticles being positioned adjacent the surface of the semiconductor substrate, which may include a least a portion of the nanoparticles being in direct contact with the substrate. It should be understood that the plurality of noble-metal-containing nanoparticles may be positioned on the surface using any suitable method such as drop-casting, spin coating, self-assembled monolayer formation techniques such as a Langmuir-Blodgett trough, and so on.
As noted above, in some instances, a noble-metal-containing nanoparticle includes a noble metal core that is at least partially surrounded by a sacrificial material (e.g., a sacrificial spacer layer). As used herein, a sacrificial material generally refers to a material that is intended to be at least partially removed before a semiconductor substrate is processed to form pores therein, and the sacrificial material may be removed by exposing the sacrificial material to an environment (e.g., a solvent) that dissolves the sacrificial material. For example, as noted above, in one embodiment a sacrificial material may include SiO2, which can be rapidly dissolved via exposure to HF in a MACE solution. However, it should be understood that other sacrificial materials and/or solvents also may be suitable, as the current disclosure is not limited in this regard.
Depending on the particular embodiment, the noble-metal-containing nanoparticles may be nanostructures having any suitable shape, including, but not limited to, spheres, rods, wires, cubes, pyramids, prismatic shapes, and irregular shapes. Further, the noble metal core of a noble-metal-containing nanoparticle may have a shape that is generally the same as the overall shape of the nanoparticle, or the core may have a different shape than the nanoparticle. Accordingly, it should be understood that the current disclosure is not limited to any particular shape and/or configuration for a noble metal core and/or a noble-metal-containing nanoparticle.
In some embodiments, a plurality of noble-metal-containing nanoparticles may assemble into an array such as a close-packed array of nanoparticles. As used herein, an array generally refers to at least a partially ordered pattern, such as a two-dimensional pattern, in which at least a portion of the plurality of nanoparticles have a similar spacing relative to one-another. A close-packed array refers to an array in which at least a portion of the nanoparticles are in direct contact with two or more of their nearest-neighbor nanoparticles. For example, in a hexagonal close-packed array, each nanoparticle may be in direct contact with six nearest-neighbor nanoparticles. In some embodiments, the plurality of noble-metal-containing nanoparticles may be arranged in a close-packed array with the sacrificial material of adjacent nanoparticles in direct contact. After removal of the sacrificial material, the noble metal cores may be left in an array that is not close-packed (i.e., a spaced array). As noted above, the plurality of nanoparticles may self-assemble to form an array; i.e., the nanoparticles may naturally arrange themselves into an ordered pattern after being positioned proximate a semiconductor substrate. In some instances, the self-assembly may be driven by evaporation of a solvent, such as an aqueous solution in which the nanoparticles were dispersed.
According to another embodiment, a method for producing a nanoporous semiconductor material includes forming a plurality of noble metal islands on the surface of a semiconductor substrate. In some instances, forming the noble metal islands may include depositing a noble metal onto the semiconductor substrate via a suitable deposition process and allowing the islands to self-assemble as a result of the interfacial energy of the noble metal and the semiconductor substrate. In some instances, the self-assembly of the noble metal islands may result in homogenously sized and spaced islands. After formation of the noble metal islands, a plurality of pores is formed in the semiconductor substrate by etching (e.g., by immersing the semiconductor in a MACE solution). Similar to the embodiments discussed above, the inventors have recognized that the noble metal islands may catalyze the etching of the semiconductor surface to form nanopores with smaller diameters, smaller inter-pore spacing, and large pore aspect rations compared to those achievable with conventional solution-based etching techniques.
It should be understood that noble metal islands may form as a result of any suitable deposition process. For example, in some embodiments, a thin noble metal layer may be deposited by a physical vapor deposition process, such as a sputtering process (e.g., magnetron sputtering), electron beam assisted evaporation, or thermal evaporation. As noted above, the noble metal islands may form naturally as a result of the interfacial energy of the noble metal-semiconductor interface. Without wishing to be bound by any particular theory, in some embodiments, the size and spacing of the noble metal islands may be controlled by suitably controlling the surface energy of the semiconductor surface and/or one or more aspects of the deposition process, such as the amount of material deposited. Moreover, in some instances, a particular deposition process may result in a planar interface between the noble metal island catalysts and the semiconductor substrate surface, which may allow for highly anisotropic etching behavior, which may lead to higher aspect ratio pores.
As used herein, etching generally refers to chemically removing a portion of a (e.g., a semiconductor substrate) via exposure to an etching solution. In some embodiments, such as embodiments utilizing a MACE process, an etching process may be affected by the presence of a catalyst on the surface a substrate (e.g., a semiconductor substrate). Accordingly, methods in accordance with some embodiments may include etching the surface of a substrate in a pattern affected by an array of catalyst particles, such as an array of noble metal nanoparticles or noble metal islands formed after a deposition process (e.g., a sputtering process). In particular, the pattern of the features that are etched into the substrate may be determined, at least in part, by the positions of the catalyst particles in the array. Additionally, it should be understood that the current disclosure is not limited to any particular catalyst particle. For example, noble metal catalyst particles (e.g., nanoparticles and/or islands) are described above, and may include a noble metal such as gold, silver, platinum, palladium, etc. Moreover, in some embodiments, catalyst particles made from other metals such as copper also may be suitable.
In some embodiments, the methods described herein may be used to form nanoporous semiconductor materials having pore sizes and/or an inter-pore spacing of less than 15 nm, less than 10 nm, or less than 6 nm, and the aspect ratio of the pores may be greater than 50:1, greater than 75:1, greater than 100:1, greater than 200:1, greater than 300:1, or greater than 375:1, greater than 400:1, greater than 500:1, greater than 750:1, greater than 1000:1, greater than 2,500:1, greater than 5,000:1, greater than 10,000:1, or higher. In certain embodiments, the porosity of a nanoporous semiconductor material may be greater than 0.5%, greater than 1%, greater than 5%, greater than 10%, or greater than 15%. For example, in one embodiment, the porosity may be about 18%. In some embodiments, the porosity may refer to the fraction of the total surface area of the semiconductor material that is covered with pores (i.e., the total area of the pores defined by the pores divided by the total surface area of the semiconductor substrate). Suitable semiconductor materials include, but are not limited to, silicon, gallium arsenide, indium phosphide, germanium, and silicon-germanium alloy; depending on the particular embodiment, a semiconductor material may be crystalline (i.e., single crystalline or polycrystalline).
Moreover, it should be understood that the current disclosure is not limited to any particular etching solutions. In some embodiments, MACE solutions containing a mixture of an acid (e.g., hydrofluoric acid, and an oxidizer may be suitable, and the particular acid and oxidizer may be selected based on the particular semiconductor material being etched. For instance, a mixture of hydrofluoric acid and hydrogen peroxide may be suitable for etching silicon, and a mixture of sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate may be suitable for etching gallium arsenide and indium phosphide.
In certain embodiments, the methods described herein may further comprise depositing a functional layer onto the surface of the pores of a nanoporous semiconductor material. For instance, the pore surfaces may be functionalized with an oxide material such as an aluminum oxide (e.g., Al2O3) or a titanium oxide (e.g., TiO2), or other materials such as nitrides. It should be understood that the functional layer may be deposited using any suitable deposition technique, including, but not limited to atomic layer deposition (ALD) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD).
In some embodiments, a plurality of pores in a nanoporous semiconductor material may have an average pore diameter of less than about 10 nm, and the plurality of pore may define a total volumetric porosity of at least 0.5%. For example, the total volumetric porosity may be measured as the total pore volume in the nanoporous semiconductor material divided by the total pore volume plus solid material volume of the nanoporous semiconductor material. In some embodiments, the total volumetric porosity may be greater than about 0.5%, greater than about 0.75%, greater than about 1%, greater than about 2%, greater than about 5%, greater than about 7%, greater than about 10%, greater than about 20%, greater than about 30%, or more. In some instances, the total volumetric porosity may be less than about 50%, less than about 40%, less than about 30%, less than about 20%, less than about 10%, and/or less than about 5%.
In some embodiments, a portion of the pores formed in a nanoporous semiconductor material may pass through the material from a first surface to an opposite or different surface of the material. For example, in some instances, a percentage of pores passing through the material may be at least about 0.05%, at least about 0.075%, at least about 0.1%, at least about 0.25%, at least about 0.5%, at least about 0.75%, at least about 1%, at least about 2.5% at least about 5%, at least about 7.5%, at least about 10%, and/or at least about 20%. In other instances, the percentage of pores passing through the material may be less than about 30%, less than about 20%, less than about 10%, less than about 5%, less than about 1%, and/or less than about 0.5%.
Depending on the particular application, a thickness a nanoporous material, which may be measured as the materials'"'"' minimum cross-sectional thickness, may be between about 0.05 microns and about 400 microns. For example, the thickness may be greater than about 0.05 microns, greater than about 0.075 microns, greater than about 0.1 microns, greater than about 0.2 microns, greater than about 0.5 microns, greater than about 0.5 microns, greater than about 1 micron, greater than about 2.5 microns, greater than about 5 microns, greater than about 10 microns, greater than about 25 microns, greater than about 40 microns, greater than about 60 microns, greater than about 75 microns, greater than about 85 microns, greater than about 100 microns, greater than about 150 microns, greater than about 200 microns, greater than about 250 microns, or more. In some instances, the thickness may be less than about 400 microns, less than about 300 microns, less than about 200 microns, less than about 100 microns, less than about 50 microns, less than about 10 microns, less than about 1 micron, less than about 0.5 microns, and/or less than about 0.1 microns.
As noted above, in some applications, the nanoporous semiconductor materials described herein may be used in connection with masking and/or patterning applications. For example, the nanoporous semiconductor materials may be use as a mask to form a desired pattern (such as a pore pattern) on another material. In some embodiments, such masks may be used as etch masks to form nanoporous structures in two-dimensional materials, such as molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) and/or tungsten disulfide (WS2). For example, in one exemplary embodiment, a nanoporous silicon membrane material having an average pore aspect ratio of greater than 1000:1 and pore diameters of less than 20 nm may be used as an etch mask for nanopatterning of two-dimensional MoS2 and/or WS2 materials (or other suitable two-dimensional materials). The masks may have lateral dimensions ranging from 100 μm by 100 μm to 1 cm by 1 cm, and thicknesses ranging from 50 nm to 15 microns. Applying these masks to the two-dimensional materials and subsequently performing an etching process may generate nanopores within the two-dimensional materials having diameters of about 70 nm, and if desired, the pores may be enlarged via thermal annealing in air. The inventors have appreciated that this nanopatterning process may allow for control of the edge-to-area ratio of the two-dimensional material, which may allow for tuning of the properties of the two-dimensional material for various applications, such as filtration, sensing, and/or electrocatalysis. For example, in catalysis applications, a greatly increased edge density enabled by the methods and materials described herein may provide improved catalytic performance, such as in hydrogen evolution reactions.
While a particular patterning application is described above in connection with two-dimensional materials such as MoS2 and WS2, it should be understood that the current disclosure is not limited to any particular type of patterning applications, and that the methods and materials described herein may be applicable to a wide range of patterning applications. Moreover, while particular dimensions and pore characteristics for a nanoporous semiconductor material are described in connection with the above embodiment, it should be understood that various patterning applications may utilize nanoporous semiconductor materials having any suitable combinations of dimensions and pore characteristics, as the current disclosure is not limited in this regard.
Moreover, as noted above, the nanoporous semiconductor materials described herein may be utilized in connection with various filtration membranes. The inventors have appreciated that the presently disclosed materials may provide numerous benefits relative to existing filtration membranes, such as polymer and/or ceramic membranes. For example, the majority of polymer membrane technologies remain stable only at temperatures below 50° C. in aqueous environments and within a pH range of 4-10, and ceramic materials present numerous challenges to achieving the costs and scalability needed for commercialization, especially at very small filtration scales, such as below 1 nm. In contrast, the nanoporous materials described herein may be capable of performing separations on the sub-1 nm molecular scale while also being suitable for use in a variety of chemically and thermally harsh environments. Moreover, the nanoporous materials may be made using the methods described herein, which may facilitate economically feasible manufacturing at large scales.
For example, in some embodiments, nanoporous semiconductor membranes may be produced by first thinning a portion of a semiconductor material to achieve a desired thickness, depositing a metal catalyst onto the thinned portion, and subsequently etching nanopores through the thinned portion, e.g., using the etching methods described herein. In other embodiments, thicker membrane materials may be formed by directly etching semiconductor material without thinning. For example, nanopores may be etched through a semiconductor material having a thickness of between about 200 microns and bout 400 microns. In some instances, the etching may be performed from each of two sides of the material (e.g., opposing sides) by depositing an etch catalyst on each of the two sides. Given the larger thickness of the semiconductor material, the nanopores formed in such materials may have very large aspect ratios, such as greater than 20,000:1, greater than 40,000:1, greater than 60,000:1, greater than 70,000:1 or higher.
The following examples are intended to illustrate certain embodiments of the present invention, but do not exemplify the full scope of the invention.
In one set of illustrative examples, an entirely solution-based, modified MACE process is used to synthesize nanoporous silicon (NPSi) with sub-10 nm pore diameters, sub-10 nm inter-pore spacing, and pore aspect ratio of over 100:1. The method simultaneously allows for the fabrication of ordered nanopore arrays in a novel size regime, increases the etching homogeneity and anisotropy of nanoparticle catalyzed MACE, and drastically improves the scalability and high throughput nature of the process relative to conventional lithographic MACE approaches. As discussed in more detail below, the simple two-step process is carried out by first drop-casting silica-shell gold nanoparticles (SiO2-AuNPs) onto a crystalline Si substrate. Solvent evaporation then facilitates SiO2—AuNP self-assembly into close-packed monolayer arrays. Second, immersion of the SiO2—AuNP monolayer coated Si into the MACE solution results in the rapid consumption of the silica shells by HF, leaving behind a well-spaced array of bare AuNPs on the surface. These AuNPs then seamlessly catalyze nanopore formation with an etching fidelity and consistency previously unobserved in the sub-10 nm regime. Through high resolution transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), the deposited SiO2—AuNP monolayers and arrays of nanopores are characterized pre- and post-MACE respectively, allowing for the detailed monitoring of pore size, inter-pore spacing, and pore aspect ratio of the resulting NPSi.
SiO2-AuNPs (5 nm and 10 nm gold cores) were purchased from Sigma-Aldrich USA. The 5 nm gold core particles are diluted twice with H2O, followed by five times with acetone. The 10 nm gold core particles are diluted twice with acetone. Silicon wafers (Virginia Semiconductor Inc.) are boron-doped with resistivity 0.001-0.01 Ω·cm and thickness of 275 μm+/−25 μm. The prepared solutions are drop-cast onto a silicon wafer and allowed to dry in air. The coated substrate is then added to the MACE solution (5.65M HF, 0.12M H2O2) for varying times, as described in more detail below. The sample is removed and rinsed with DI water to stop the reaction. For imaging pore cross-sections, pores are filled with Al2O3 using atomic layer deposition (ALD, Cambridge NanoTech Savannah) for image contrast and conservation of the porous structure. Particle and pore sizes from SEM and TEM images are analyzed using ImageJ and MATLAB. Samples are imaged using a Zeiss Ultra Plus Field Emission SEM, FEI Helios 660 Focused Ion Beam (for cross-sectional milling) with SEM (with attached EDAX Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy [EDS] Detector), and a JEOL 2100 Transmission Electron Microscope.
As noted above, the use of noble metal nanoparticles deposited from solution to catalyze the etching of nanopores via a conventional MACE process in Si offers the benefit of being a scalable route of manufacturing NPSi.
In contrast, a modified MACE process in accordance with the current disclosure, which involves the self-assembly of SiO2-AuNPs monolayer arrays from solution on a crystalline Si substrate, is illustrated in
To demonstrate the time-based progression of the modified MACE process, drop-cast samples were exposed to the etchant solution for 15, 30, and 60 minutes. In particular,
Since directional etching is promoted by uniform hole injection into the Si, particles lacking adjacent neighboring particles are less likely to etch downwards, or at all. A promising observation is that little to no lateral or cluster etching has taken place after 60 minutes, possibly explained by the high degree of uniformity in hole injection from the closely spaced AuNPs which seems to promote anisotropic etching in the <100> direction. As a result, the inventors concluded that the quality of NPSi depends primarily on the quality and monodispersity of the SiO2-AuNPs being MACE processed, as well as the quality of the self-assembled monolayer (SAM) produced.
To quantitatively elucidate the morphology of the fabricated NPSi, NPSi materials produced via a 60 minute modified MACE process were analyzed on various length scales to obtain information on pore size and inter-pore spacing by statistical analysis.
where dt is the particle diameter including the gold core and silica shell, and dAUNP is the gold core diameter for up to a trilayer of SiO2-AuNPs. The deposition of more than a monolayer does, however, result in a less controllable process by decreasing inter-pore spacing and increasing porosity unpredictably. As such, the ability to obtain large area monolayer arrays of SiO2-AuNPs on the Si surface is crucial for a successful result. Both the sub-10 nm pore sizes and >12% porosities achieved here represent advances over previous ground breaking work by Gaborski et al. that showed NPSi with 10-40 nm pore sizes and 1.44% porosity.
In addition to pore size and inter-pore spacing, pore depth and aspect ratio are essential metrics for the application of NPSi in membranes and thin films. This was investigated following MACE processing by filling the resulting NPSi pores with aluminum oxide (Al2O3) using atomic layer deposition (ALD). ALD was used for the dual purpose of: (1) preserving the nanoporous structure and (2) enhancing the image contrast of pores against the Si matrix during cross-sectional milling and SEM imaging respectively. Cross-sections were milled from 60 minute MACE samples using focused ion beam milling (FIB) and were then imaged by SEM.
A final important property of merit for the produced NPSi is chemical and physical stability. The demonstrated ability to deposit ultra-stable materials such as Al2O3 onto the high aspect ratio pore walls of the produced NPSi (
In another set of illustrative examples, a modified MACE process is used to produce NPSi with sub-10 nm pore sizes and pore aspect ratios as high as 400:1. As discussed in more detail below, the method leverages the nucleation of sputtered noble metals on a silicon surface to form noble metal islands, which catalyze the etching process to form the high aspect-ratio pores. After etching, the porous structure is characterized with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM), as well as vertical and horizontal focused ion beam (FIB) cross-sectional milling at a depth of several microns within the silicon substrate. Moreover, as explained in more detail below, the NPSi is functionalized with Al2O3 and TiO2 via atomic layer deposition (ALD). TiO2-functionalized NPSi exhibits reflectivity of 6-8% for visible wavelengths, and 2-3% in the infrared—showing its promise as a robust and functional porous substrate. The developed approach of employing MACE with sputtered nucleated catalysts facilitates the scalable fabrication of functional ultra-high aspect-ratio nanopores in silicon.
Moreover, using the deposition of nucleated noble metal islands to catalyze the etching of nanopores via a MCE process offers the benefit of forming homogenous arrays of pores without the need to carefully control the parameters of the wet chemical processes associated with monolayer formation, as may be required for nanoparticle catalysts. Instead, the deposited noble metal may naturally form highly ordered arrays of homogeneously sized and spaced catalysts. In this manner, the methods described herein may allow for a simple two-step MACE process for producing NPSi. Further, this method is capable of forming NPSi without any intrinsic limitations on scaling to form nanoporous structures over large areas.
(100) Silicon wafers (B-doped, thickness: 275±25 μm, resistivity: 0.001-0.01 Ω·cm) were solvent cleaned using a standard Acetone-IPA-DI Water rinse. The dried wafers were sputtered with AJA ATC 2200 UHV Sputter Coater under pre-deposition pressure of 5-10×10−8 Pa, Ar flow of 40 sccm, and deposition pressure of 4 mTorr. The targets were DC magnetron sputtered at 125 W. The deposition rates were 3.2 Å/s for gold (Au) and 4.0 Å/s for silver (Ag). Following deposition of the noble metals, and the subsequent formation of islands of the deposited noble metals, the substrates were placed into the MACE solution (5.33M HF, 0.12 M H2O2) to etch the substrate and form the NPSi. The reaction was terminated by washing with water and removal of substrates, followed by drying with a N2 gun.
For functionalized samples, the NPSi was coated using a benchtop ALD system. In the case of alumina-functionalized samples, Al2O3 was coated via a static-flow process at 200° C.; the precursors were trimethylaluminum and H2O, with calculated a growth rate of 1.14 Å/cycle. In the case of titania-functionalized samples, TiO2 was coated via a static process at 190° C.; the precursors were tetrakis(dimethylamido)titanium and H2O with a calculated growth rate of 0.45 Å/cycle.
The process of sputtering nominally thin-films of metal causes the nucleation of homogenously spaced and sized islands. The size and morphology of islands is influenced by surface defects on the substrate and the interfacial energies of the metals with Si, where the metal surface energies (γ) are γAg=1.246-1.250 J m2, and γAu=1.500-1.506 J m−2. Due to their wetting behavior on the native oxide surface, Au and Ag films nucleate as isolated islands instead of a continuous film.
Following sputter deposition, the wafer is placed in the MACE etchant solution. Etching of silicon is enabled by localized silicon oxidation, facilitated via catalytic reduction of H2O2 on noble metal nanoparticles. This is followed by etching of SiO2 by HF, allowing the metalislands to continue etching normal to the Si surface. In some instances, after etching, the nanopores of the NPSi are filled with Al2O3 via ALD to enhance imaging contrast and to preserve the porous morphology prior to characterization.
In some cases, a further degree of control over island size could be employed via silicon surface treatment prior to catalyst nucleation. Removal of native oxide with HF prior to noble metal deposition increases wettability of the films. This in turn is expected to cause a lower metal island contact angle, but also higher likelihood of silicide formation. The effect of contact angle on etching characteristics can be elucidated by comparing the etching behavior of Au and Ag metal islands, which exhibit different wetting behavior. With its lower surface energy, Ag has a higher contact angle with Si than does Au, thus forming more pronounced islands, as seen in the SEM images shown in
To verify the presence of nanopores and examine the morphology within the bulk of the sample following etching, TEM images of horizontal cross-sections (i.e., planar lamellae) of NPSi and a control Si sample prepared via FIB at a depth of 4 μm are compared. A schematic representation of the process for preparing the planar lamellae is shown in
In addition to the deposition of Al2O3, ALD is utilized here for the conformal coating of the NPSi pore walls with TiO2. This process yields a porous, high surface-area functional substrate, while its porosity results in antireflective properties. Nanostructured TiO2 has been explored for applications owing to its anti-reflective and self-cleaning properties.
Turning now to
The coated NPSi surface was characterized via XPS to confirm the composition of the ALD coating.
These results demonstrate the realization of NPSi with sub-10 nm, ultra-high aspect ratio pores, which can be made functional via the ALD deposition of TiO2. By leveraging interfacial effects and the nature of film formation, sub-5 nm noble metal islands are nucleated on silicon uniformly over multiple square centimeters. The developed technique is advantageous when compared to other MACE schemes due to the islands'"'"' narrow size distribution and planar interface with the Si, reducing the occurrence of unwanted etching effects resulting from nanoparticle facets and substrate contact surface area. These islands are shown to etch pores with aspect ratios as high as 400:1 for both Au and Ag catalysts. The resulting highly porous substrates are then coated with a functional layer of TiO2 via ALD to demonstrate the potential functionality of NPSi.
In a further set of illustrative examples, nanoporous silicon (NPSi) membranes are used as mask materials for the patterning of MoS2 via oxygen plasma etching. This example takes advantage of the methods herein, which allow for the production of NPSi having sufficiently small (e.g., sub-30 nm) pores in silicon with aspect ratios greater than 10:1, such that the pores penetrate sufficiently thick freestanding films so as to provide mechanical stability over large areas. By leveraging the methods described herein for producing porous silicon membranes containing nanopores with aspect ratios greater than 1000:1 and diameters less than 20 nm, this example demonstrates the direct applicability of NPSi as an etch mask for the patterning of MoS2, and 2D materials in general, over arbitrarily large areas. In particular, this example demonstrates the patterning of areas with porosity, which is realized by the use of silicon masks where nanoporous areas are confined to the micron scale. Upon the generation of nanoporous 2D monolayers, the pore size is further controlled by facile thermal annealing in air, which is monitored by optical spectroscopy and electron microscopy.
Robust, large-area NPSi membrane masks are fabricated by first sputtering silver films of 1 Å nominal thickness onto a (100) Si surface, resulting in the nucleation of hemispherical nanoislands. Samples are then submerged in a solution of hydrogen peroxide and hydrofluoric acid (HF) for varying amounts of time, facilitating the etching of nanopores via a metal-assisted chemical etching (MACE) process, whereby oxidation occurs locally at the silicon-catalyst interface, and oxide is subsequently consumed by HF. This electroless etching process is only limited by the presence of reactants in solution, and when performed over extended periods of time can produce pores of aspect ratio over 1000:1 which completely penetrate Si substrates many microns in thickness.
Two types of mask are explored in this example. The first type of mask is a 50 nm-thick (100) NPSi layer, etched for 1-2 min following catalyst deposition, as shown in
The second type of mask is an approximately 15 μm-thick (100) NPSi layer, etched for 24 hours, and is shown in
While the 50 nm-thick mask allows for pore diameters less than 10 nm after 1 min etching (
A schematic illustration of the patterning process of this example is shown in
Imaging of the MoS2 domains following oxygen plasma exposure through the NPSi mask reveals the introduction of significant porosity in the material. This is exemplified via comparison between pristine MoS2 domains shown in
Referring now to
In this example, the O2 plasma etching through NPSi masks completed in different time scales depending on the thickness of the masks. The plasma treatment of 2 min was used to pattern TMD domains through 50 nm-thick Si masks with sub-10 nm pores, while 30 sec exposure to plasma through 15 μm-thick Si masks was sufficient to generate similar scale pores on the domains.
Further, following initial O2 plasma treatment of 2 min, which generates round pores as determined by the shape of the NPSi structures, an effective strategy to control the pore size of monolayer MoS2 domains is demonstrated via thermal treatment at 300° C. in air. Defect sites of MoS2 flakes are prone to oxidative etching under high temperature conditions, and thus the size of the nanopores may be controlled via gradual thermal annealing. The nanopore size and density increases with heating time, indicating that mass loss occurs from the edge of existing nanopores, most likely in the form of S depletion. The enlargement of these holes results in an increased edge-to-area ratio in the MoS2 sample. The increase of edge sites, which have implications in the optical and catalytic properties, can be effectively modified by the simple heating processes without the need of a furnace or inert conditions. Depending on the application, the optimal edge-to-area ratio can be selected, and diverse nanoscale patterns can be achieved.
Up to 30 min of annealing, the oxidation does not lead to any visible change on the morphology of the nano-pattern under SEM. The effect of annealing for 30, 60, and 100 minutes is shown in
The understanding of the gradual morphology changes induced by thermal annealing gives valuable insight for the optimization of porosity, which is essential for developing porosity-dependent applications such as nanoporous filtration and edge-site-specific applications including sensing and electrocatalysis.
The visual changes of the domain morphology corroborate the optical property changes measured by PL and Raman spectroscopy on the pristine and nanoporous MoS2, as shown in
As shown in
It has been reported that laser induced chemisorbed oxidation of CVD-grown pristine MoS2 causes PL increase due to the reduction in n-doping followed by PL decrease after continued oxidation, and that heating exfoliated MoS2 in air also causes rapid PL enhancements. Another report illustrates that defect areas or cracks on MoS2 layers exhibit a huge PL enhancement upon thermal annealing compared to pristine area due to heavy p-doping and less non-radiative recombination around the defective sites. A similar effect is seen in the nanoporous MoS2 samples shown in
As shown in
The selective etching of monolayers through NPSi masks was confirmed via a control experiment where the CVD-grown pristine MoS2 domains were directly exposed to O2 plasma for short (1 second, 10 second, and 30 second) times. The drastically different result of the direct plasma etching could exclude the possibility of NPSi being a layer which reduces the concentration and penetration of O2 plasma. After 1 second of exposure, the PL decreases and blue-shifts from 678 nm to 663 nm, as shown in
As shown in
In the above-described example, NPSi masks were fabricated from 50 nm thick (100) crystalline Si films (SiMPore Inc.) and 15 μm thick (100) crystalline Si films, initially 300 μm thick (100) DSP wafers, resisitivity 1-10 Ω·cm, p-type (boron doped), which were thinned via potassium hydroxide in 30 wt. % aqueous solution at 70° C. Both types of substrate were cleaned in acetone, isopropanol, and DI water, and dried under nitrogen prior to catalyst deposition. The hemispherical nanocatalysts were deposited via RF magnetron sputtering using an ATC 6-target sputtering tool (AJA International). In all experiments, Ag was deposited to a nominal thickness of 1 Å at an RF power of 30 W Immediately after catalyst deposition, samples were submerged in MACE solution containing 5.33 M HF and 0.12 M H2O2 for 1 minute in the case of the 50 nm thick masks and 24 hours for the 15 μm thick masks. Masks were rinsed extensively with DI water upon completion of the etching and dried under nitrogen.
On the substrate with CVD-grown monolayer MoS2, PMMA A7 solution was spin-coated (500 rpm for 5 seconds, 2000 rpm for 10 seconds, and 4500 rpm for 45 seconds). The sample was annealed at 180° C. for 90 seconds to evaporate anisole, and the Si/SiO2 substrate was removed by dissolving in 1 M KOH solution overnight. The PMMA layer containing MoS2 domains was then rinsed with DI water and transferred to NPSi substrate. The sample was dried at 150° C. for 10 minutes and turned upside-down to be selectively exposed to oxygen plasma. The oxygen plasma etching of MoS2 through NPSi mask was conducted by using Harrick Scientific PDC-32G Plasma Cleaner (18 W, oxygen flow rate of 0.6 SCFH (standard cubic feet per hour)). The porous MoS2 formed on PMMA layer was then transferred to a new Si/SiO2 substrate via KOH etching of NPSi as described for the initial transfer process.
PL and Raman spectra were acquired using a Horiba LabRAM 800 HR spectrometer equipped with an Ar+(514.5 nm) excitation source and a Peltier-cooled CCD detector. The laser was focused on the sample with a 400 nm confocal hole using the 100× objective under reflected illumination. The laser spot on the sample was about 1 μm in diameter and had a power of about 4 mW at the sample surface. Scanning electron microscopy was performed using Zeiss Ultra Plus FESEM.
In another set of illustrative examples, inorganic nanofiltration (NF) membranes materials formed nanoporous silicon (NPSi) are investigated. The NPSi membranes are capable of performing separations on the sub-1 nm molecular scale, while enduring a variety of chemically and thermally harsh environments. The membrane, is produced in three steps, facilitating economically feasible manufacturing at scale. This example presents an in-depth description of the fabrication process, characterization of the resulting membrane material, and evaluation of filtration performance for four NPSi membranes using industrially relevant feed streams, including a demonstration of zero liquid discharge (ZLD) performance Taken together, these results demonstrate a NF membrane with superior scalability, cost and rejection performance relative to ceramic membranes at the sub-1 nm scale.
The NPSi membranes are produced via a three step process shown schematically in
NPSi membranes were characterized for thickness, surface hydrophilicity, and pore size distribution prior to filtration testing. The static surface contact angle for pristine membranes is observed to be 47.9°±2.1°. In some samples, membranes were treated using piranha solution immediately following MACE in order to aggressively oxidize their surfaces. Following this treatment, the same membrane sample exhibits a decreased contact angle of 12.2°±1.7°. Increased hydrophilicity is generally understood to be an important metric for reducing membrane fouling rate.
For membranes produced via the standard approach, nitrogen adsorption measured a Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) surface area of 6.20 m2/g and a Barrett-Joyner-Halenda (BJH) average pore size of 18.96 nm, calculated using the adsorption isotherm. The pore size distribution shows a well-defined peak around a pore diameter of 24 nm, with a more complex profile for pore diameters below 10 nm, including a monotonic increase in the number of pores with decreasing pore size below 3.6 nm. The most likely explanation for this observation is the presence of multiple types of porous morphologies within the membrane layer, the first being the larger porosity found within a few microns of the initial etch surface, and the second being deep dead-end and through pores within the membrane bulk. The latter structures are most often etched only by a single Ag catalyst particle, and are less prone to pore-enlargening given their high aspect ratio and depth within the bulk film. Therefore these pores are expected to have a significantly smaller diameter, which is indicated by the presence of a large number of pores below 3.6 nm as shown in
The filtration of 5 nm diameter gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) suspended in aqueous solutions was studied in a dead-end membrane configuration with no stirring to characterize the rejection and permeability behavior of the NPSi membranes over time. A pristine membrane (M1) was inserted into the cell, then fully submerged in 5 mL IPA at a pressure of 10.34 bar (150 psi) in order to maximize pore wetting. 100 mL DI water was then added to the cell and placed under 10.34 bar to assess pure water permeability.
Following an initial stabilization period, permeability was observed to be constant at 0.31 LMH/bar over a period of 30 hours, as shown in
These findings indicate that the pristine membrane is capable of rejecting a significant fraction of the 5 nm particles, where rejection can be attributed primarily to steric size exclusion effects, as evidenced by the BJH pore size distribution. As filtration continues, flux decline in conjunction with improving rejection indicates blockage of pores either at pore entrance or within the membrane bulk. SEM imaging of the membrane surface following the experiment indeed reveals minor adsorption of AuNPs to the membrane surface (
To probe the ability of NPSi membranes to reject charged solvated species smaller than 5 nm AuNPs, filtration experiments were conducted using feed streams consisting of aqueous molecular dye solutions of Reactive Black (RB) and Methyl Orange (MO), both negatively charged dyes with MW of 992 g/mol and 327 g/mol respectively. Such dye species not only serve as effective analogs for many industrially important small charged molecules, but are also directly relevant to the textile industry, a S870B market which is increasingly in need of utilizing nanofiltration for removal of dyes from effluent. Dye experiments were performed in a similar manner to the AuNP experiments discussed above, with pure water, and then subsequently 10−4 M dye solutions, passed through the membrane in a dead-end configuration under 10.34 bar applied pressure. Membranes were not pre-wetted with IPA in this case. Two pristine membranes, M2 and M3, were tested, with each membrane being flushed extensively with pure water between dye tests. Pure water permeability is shown for both membranes alongside RB and MO rejection in
Produced using an identical process to M1, but with a shorter etching time, M2 exhibited a lower initial pure water permeability of 0.11 LMH/bar, likely owing to the lack of pore wetting with IPA, as well as general variability in the pore etching process. Following the permeability test, M2 rejected 91% RB and 70% MO respectively (
A crucial property of a filtration membrane is its ability to resist the accumulation of foulants and scalants on its surface, a characteristic understood to be influenced primarily by surface roughness and hydrophilicity. Oil-water separation, an important process in multiple industries including oil & gas and food & beverage, in many cases proves especially difficult for polymeric membranes due to extensive fouling. To evaluate the performance of NPSi membranes with regard to fouling resistance and cleanability in the oil-water separation application, feed solutions of emulsified 30 wt. % hexadecane-in-water were introduced into the dead-end cell, and fed through a pristine sample (M4) at 3.45 bar (50 psi). M4 was produced using identical conditions to the previous three samples, however sputter power was increased to 45 W with the goal of increasing porosity and subsequently permeability. The resulting pure water permeability was 0.67 LMH/bar for the pristine membrane prior to piranha treatment, and with no IPA pre-wetting. The feed hexadecane emulsions were characterized by DLS to reveal an average particle size of 389.4±5.1 nm, with PDI of 0.257±0.003 (
The series of tests revealed promising oil-water separation performance in conjunction with flux regeneration following hydrocarbon fouling.
Thermal gravimetric analysis of all feed and permeate samples demonstrates a similar permeate purity, while permeability in every test is shown to be greater than the initial emulsion test, peaking after piranha treatment, likely due to increased surface hydrophilicity. TGA measurements of pure water and hexadecane, superimposed on the feed and permeate are shown in
The final ZLD test was able to obtain 62.9% total mass recovery in the permeate from a feed solution consisting of 30 wt % hexadecane. Assuming pure water permeate, as indicated by TGA, 89.8% mass recovery of water was achieved, with no stirring in a dead-end configuration. Photos of the solid recovered hexadecane during the ZLD test are shown in
Each of the attempted cleaning protocols proved effective at regenerating membrane flux, including simply rinsing with IPA and water, though the membrane was also shown to be extremely chemically and thermally resilient, withstanding piranha solution and
In yet another illustrative example, another approach for forming membranes is investigated, which may provide benefits in terms of improved commercial viability. Unlike the examples discussed above, in this example, the silicon is not thinned prior to etching, and a catalyst is deposited directly on opposing sides of a thicker Si wafer (e.g., 200-400 μm thickness), as shown in the cross-sectional SEM image shown in
The catalyst deposition step is the same as in the above examples, (silver, 30 W, 2 seconds), but in this example it is done on each side of the wafer. Additionally, the etching of the pores is performed in an identical chemical solution as the previous examples, but it is carried out for much longer, such as for 24-48 hours, in order to allow for significant etching to take place. Using these methods, the aspect ratios of pores penetrating entirely through the thicker membranes may be extremely high. For instance,
While several embodiments and examples of the present invention have been described and illustrated herein, those of ordinary skill in the art will readily envision a variety of other means and/or structures for performing the functions and/or obtaining the results and/or one or more of the advantages described herein, and each of such variations and/or modifications is deemed to be within the scope of the present invention. More generally, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that all parameters, dimensions, materials, and configurations described herein are meant to be exemplary and that the actual parameters, dimensions, materials, and/or configurations will depend upon the specific application or applications for which the teachings of the present invention is/are used. Those skilled in the art will recognize, or be able to ascertain using no more than routine experimentation, many equivalents to the specific embodiments of the invention described herein. It is, therefore, to be understood that the foregoing embodiments are presented by way of example only and that, within the scope of the appended claims and equivalents thereto, the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described and claimed. The present invention is directed to each individual feature, system, article, material, kit, and/or method described herein. In addition, any combination of two or more such features, systems, articles, materials, kits, and/or methods, if such features, systems, articles, materials, kits, and/or methods are not mutually inconsistent, is included within the scope of the present invention.
The indefinite articles “a” and “an,” as used herein in the specification and in the claims, unless clearly indicated to the contrary, should be understood to mean “at least one.”
The phrase “and/or,” as used herein in the specification and in the claims, should be understood to mean “either or both” of the elements so conjoined, i.e., elements that are conjunctively present in some cases and disjunctively present in other cases. Other elements may optionally be present other than the elements specifically identified by the “and/or” clause, whether related or unrelated to those elements specifically identified unless clearly indicated to the contrary. Thus, as a non-limiting example, a reference to “A and/or B,” when used in conjunction with open-ended language such as “comprising” can refer, in one embodiment, to A without B (optionally including elements other than B); in another embodiment, to B without A (optionally including elements other than A); in yet another embodiment, to both A and B (optionally including other elements); etc.
As used herein in the specification and in the claims, “or” should be understood to have the same meaning as “and/or” as defined above. For example, when separating items in a list, “or” or “and/or” shall be interpreted as being inclusive, i.e., the inclusion of at least one, but also including more than one, of a number or list of elements, and, optionally, additional unlisted items. Only terms clearly indicated to the contrary, such as “only one of” or “exactly one of,” or, when used in the claims, “consisting of,” will refer to the inclusion of exactly one element of a number or list of elements. In general, the term “or” as used herein shall only be interpreted as indicating exclusive alternatives (i.e. “one or the other but not both”) when preceded by terms of exclusivity, such as “either,” “one of,” “only one of,” or “exactly one of.” “Consisting essentially of,” when used in the claims, shall have its ordinary meaning as used in the field of patent law.
As used herein in the specification and in the claims, the phrase “at least one,” in reference to a list of one or more elements, should be understood to mean at least one element selected from any one or more of the elements in the list of elements, but not necessarily including at least one of each and every element specifically listed within the list of elements and not excluding any combinations of elements in the list of elements. This definition also allows that elements may optionally be present other than the elements specifically identified within the list of elements to which the phrase “at least one” refers, whether related or unrelated to those elements specifically identified. Thus, as a non-limiting example, “at least one of A and B” (or, equivalently, “at least one of A or B,” or, equivalently “at least one of A and/or B”) can refer, in one embodiment, to at least one, optionally including more than one, A, with no B present (and optionally including elements other than B); in another embodiment, to at least one, optionally including more than one, B, with no A present (and optionally including elements other than A); in yet another embodiment, to at least one, optionally including more than one, A, and at least one, optionally including more than one, B (and optionally including other elements); etc.
In the claims, as well as in the specification above, all transitional phrases such as “comprising,” “including,” “carrying,” “having,” “containing,” “involving,” “holding,” and the like are to be understood to be open-ended, i.e., to mean including but not limited to. Only the transitional phrases “consisting of” and “consisting essentially of” shall be closed or semi-closed transitional phrases, respectively, as set forth in the United States Patent Office Manual of Patent Examining Procedures, Section 2111.03.
Any terms as used herein related to shape and/or geometric relationship of or between, for example, one or more articles, structures, and/or subcomponents thereof and/or combinations thereof and/or any other tangible or intangible elements not listed above amenable to characterization by such terms, unless otherwise defined or indicated, shall be understood to not require absolute conformance to a mathematical definition of such term, but, rather, shall be understood to indicate conformance to the mathematical definition of such term to the extent possible for the subject matter so characterized as would be understood by one skilled in the art most closely related to such subject matter. Examples of such terms related to shape and/or geometric relationship include, but are not limited to terms descriptive of: shape—such as, round, square, circular/circle, rectangular/rectangle, triangular/triangle, cylindrical/cylinder, elliptical/ellipse, (n)polygonal/(n)polygon, etc.; surface and/or bulk material properties and/or spatial/temporal resolution and/or distribution—such as, smooth, reflective, transparent, clear, opaque, rigid, impermeable, uniform(ly), inert, non-wettable, insoluble, steady, invariant, constant, homogeneous, etc.; as well as many others that would be apparent to those skilled in the relevant arts. As one example, a fabricated article that would described herein as being “square” would not require such article to have faces or sides that are perfectly planar or linear and that intersect at angles of exactly 90 degrees (indeed, such an article can only exist as a mathematical abstraction), but rather, the shape of such article should be interpreted as approximating a “square,” as defined mathematically, to an extent typically achievable and achieved for the recited fabrication technique as would be understood by those skilled in the art or as specifically described.