Diamond Membrane Production: The Critical Role of Radicals in the Non-Contact Electrochemical Etching of sp2 Carbon

16 July 2021, Version 1


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.


Supplementary materials

Supporting Information
Contents SI.1 Ion Implantation Simulations SI.2 Characterisation of Implanted and Annealed Damage Layer SI.3 Tabulation of All Experiments Conducted SI.4 Photographs of Etch Set-Up SI.5 EPR Spectra in Boric Acid SI.6 UV-Vis Measurements of H2O2 in Etch Solutions SI.7 Detailed Description of Etching Solution Chemistry and Electrochemistry SI.8 Headspace-OLEMS Measurements in Sulfuric Acid SI.9 Graphical Comparison of all Etch Solutions and Conditions Trialled SI.10 Best Practices for Electrochemical Etching SI.11 3D Models of Etch Cells
STL file for 3D printed flow cell
STL file for 3D printed flow cell


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