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Nanocrystalline silicon

Nanocrystalline silicon (nc-Si) is similar to amorphous silicon (a-Si), in that it has an amorphous phase. Where they differ, however, is that nc-Si has small grains of crystalline silicon within the amorphous phase. This is in contrast to polycrystalline silicon (poly-Si) which consists solely of crystalline silicon grains, separated by grain boundaries. nc-Si is sometimes also known as microcrystalline silicon (uc-Si). The difference comes solely from the grain size of the cystalline grains. Most materials with grains in the micron range are actually fine-grained polysilicon, so nanocrystalline silicon is a better term.

nc-Si has many useful advantages over a-Si, one being that if grown properly it can have a higher mobility, due to the presence of the silicon crystallites. It also shows increased absorption in the red and infrared wavelengths, which make it an important material for use in a-Si solar cells. One of the most important advantages of nanocrystalline silicon, however, is that it has increased stability over a-Si, one of the reasons being because of its lower hydrogen concentration. Although it currently cannot attain the mobility that poly-Si can, it has the advantage over poly-Si that it is easier to fabricate, as it can be deposited using conventional low temperature a-Si deposition techniques, such as PECVD, as opposed to laser annealing or high temperature processes, in the case of poly-Si.