Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 3, 2010
Previous Article Next Article

Semiconductors turn soft: inorganic nanomembranes

Author affiliations


The distinction between hard and soft materials is most frequently described at the microscopic level as a difference in the nature of the bonding and molecular assembly, but concepts of “soft” and “hard” are more intuitively associated with macroscopic mechanical properties, such as stiffness or hardness. The behavior of a hard material may resemble that of a soft material in many aspects when a structural dimension is reduced to the nanoscale, even if elastic constants and moduli do not change. When semiconductor crystals, strongly covalently bonded and brittle, are made into membranes as thin as a few nanometres, they can behave like traditional soft matter, while maintaining their single-crystal structure without defects even after substantial deformation. This review presents single-crystal Si in a new fashion, i.e., as a form of soft matter, if fabricated as flexible nanomembranes, and suggests a plethora of interesting science and many applications that may benefit from the use of Si in this “soft matter” form. We suggest that the nanomembrane form gives Si an additional, new life as a soft material.

Graphical abstract: Semiconductors turn soft: inorganic nanomembranes

Back to tab navigation

Additions and corrections

Publication details

The article was received on 11 Aug 2009, accepted on 06 Nov 2009 and first published on 21 Dec 2009

Article type: Review Article
DOI: 10.1039/B916582G
Soft Matter, 2010,6, 439-455

  •   Request permissions

    Semiconductors turn soft: inorganic nanomembranes

    F. Cavallo and M. G. Lagally, Soft Matter, 2010, 6, 439
    DOI: 10.1039/B916582G

Search articles by author