Sub-micrometre single crystal diamond membranes are of huge importance for next generation optical, quantum and electronic device applications. Electrochemical etching has proven a critical step in the production of such membranes. Etching is used to selectively remove a very thin layer of sub-surface sp2 bonded carbon, prepared by ion implantation in bulk diamond, releasing the diamond membrane. Due to the nanosized dimensions, etching is carried out using non-contact electrochemistry in low conductivity solutions (bipolar arrangement) which whilst effective, results in extremely slow etch rates. In this work, a new method of non-contact electrochemical etching is presented which uses high conductivity, high concentration, fully dissociated aqueous electrolytes. Careful choice of the electrolyte anion results in significant improvements in the sp2 carbon etch rate. In particular, we show both chloride and sulfate electrolytes increase etch rates significantly (up to ×40 for sulfate) compared to the current state-of-the-art. Electron paramagnetic resonance experiments, recorded after the electrode potential has been switched off, reveal sizeable hydroxyl radical concentrations at timescales > 10^7 longer than their lifetime (< microsecond). These measurements highlight the importance of electrochemically initiated, solution chemistry radical generation and regeneration pathways in high concentration sulfate and chloride solutions for nano-etching applications.
STL file for 3D printed flow cell