Elementary steps in the electrochemical reduction process of SiCl4 in trimethyl-n-hexylammonium bis(trifluoromethylsulfonyl) imide (TMHATFSI) was investigated, focusing on molecular level behavior of the reactants at solid-liquid interface. Electrochemical measurements using an electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance (EQCM) identified a reduction peak corresponding to Si electrodeposition and several elementary steps with stable intermediates forming prior to the deposition. For detailed analysis, X-ray reflectivity (XRR) measurements with synchrotron radiation were applied in situ. The change in reflectivity of the electrode surface during the deposition was found to be due to the formation of a polymer-like Si such as Si2Cl6, which is an intermediate layer during the deposition process. These results were theoretically supported by density functional theory (DFT) calculations: after an electron transfers from the electrode, the Si in SiCl4 forms the bond with another SiCl4, rather than the Si of the substrate, resulting in the formation of the intermediate structure. These data suggest an elementary step in the SiCl4 reduction process which can be described as follows; when SiCl4 is reduced, a polymer-like Si form such as Si2Cl6 is generated. This intermediate species further reacts with other Si reactants after receiving additional electrons, which then finally deposits as Si on the substrate.
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