Alexander Gumennik, Lei Wei, Guillaume Lestoquoy, Alexander M. Stolyarov, Xiaoting Jia, Paul H. Rekemeyer, Matthew J. Smith, Xiangdong Liang, Benjamin J.-B. Grena, Steven G. Johnson, Silvija Gradečak, Ayman F. Abouraddy, John D. Joannopoulos & Yoel Fink

The ability to produce small scale, crystalline silicon spheres is of significant technological and scientific importance, yet scalable methods for doing so have remained elusive. Here we demonstrate a silicon nanosphere fabrication process based on an optical fibre drawing technique. A silica-cladded silicon-core fibre with diameters down to 340 nm is continuously fed into a flame defining an axial thermal gradient and the continuous formation of spheres whose size is controlled by the feed speed is demonstrated. In particular, spheres of diameter o500 nm smaller than those produced under isothermal heating conditions are shown and analysed. A fibre with dual cores, p‑type and n‑type silicon, is drawn and processed into spheres. Spatially coherent break-up leads to the joining of the spheres into a bispherical silicon ‘p–n molecule’. The resulting device is measured to reveal a rectifying I–V curve consistent with the formation of a p–n junction.

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Silicon-in-silica spheres via axial thermal gradient in-fibre capillary instabilities (Nature Communications)

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