RCA cleaning silicon

I’m sure the RCA process for cleaning silicon wafers was invented when Werner Kern got drunk in the lab one day and decided to have some fun…

How else would any sane man come up with the idea of taking a half litre each of several of the most corrosive things you can image then heat them up until just below boiling, then chuck in something that makes it fizz and froth and pump out ammonia fumes?

That’s just step one.

Step two is more of the same but using something even more corrosive and toxic – hydrofluoric acid. This stuff eats through glass at about the same rate warm water eats through ice. Oh, and it boils as it does it and pumps out toxic gas.

Step three is tame in comparison, it just sits there looking like water. Still nasty and corrosive as you find out when you get some on your gloves / skin.

You go through all this to get a nice shiny, contaminant free silicon wafer, atomically flat – an almost perfect mirror. Then you drop it on the floor watching as all your good work comes undone.

Rinse and repeat.

The joys of trying to publish a scientific paper…

So, you’ve got some decent results at last and want to let the world know? Then you want to publish a paper.

You write it, submit it to the journal, they send it to 2 or more referees who being conscientious professionals, read it and report back promptly. Corrections are made and the process is repeated until the paper is either accepted or rejected.

Or, you get this:

Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics
Automated status enquiry

Reference number: 1xxxxx Surname: tL

This service enables authors to track the current status and progress of their article. If you have any questions, please contact the Editorial Office at the usual address, jphysd@iop.org.

However please note that the Office is not able to give details of referees’ recommendations until a final decision has been taken.

Non-lithographic method to form ordered arrays of silicon pillars and macropores

3 Nov 2004————Referee reminded
26 Oct 2004———–Referee reminded
21 Oct 2004———–Referee report received
7 Oct 2004————-Referee did not report
7 Oct 2004————-Article sent to referee
5 Oct 2004————-Article sent to referee
5 Oct 2004————-Article sent to referee
8 Sep 2004————New submission received and acknowledged.

Where the referees don’t even reply to the journal, and you are left wondering what is going on two months after you submitted.

In December we got a list of corrections to make, nothing major. These were accepted and we finally got confirmation that we would be published earlier this month.

You cannot have too many papers before your PhD viva.

Get some idea of the stuff I do here: http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0022-3727/38/4/017/
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Some photos.

I work in a surface science lab. My work involves blowing up and etching lots of silicon; the results can look quite good. Some of my favourite images are now here: