Exploiting nanoscale effects enables ultra-low temperature to produce porous silicon†
The magnesiothermic reduction (MgTR) of silica has been recently shown to produce porous silicon which can be used in applications such as photocatalysis and energy storage. MgTR typically requires ≥650 °C to achieve meaningful conversions. However, high temperatures are detrimental to the highly desired porosity of silicon, while also raising doubts over the sustainability of the process. In this work we show for the first time that the onset temperature of the MgTR is dependent on the particle size of the feedstock silica. Using both in-house synthesised and commercial silica, we have shown that only particles ≤20 nm are able to trigger the reaction at temperatures as low as 380 °C, well below a previously reported cut-off temperature of 500 °C, producing porous, crystalline silicon. The decrease in temperature requirement from ≥650 °C to 380 °C achieved with little modification to the overall process, without any additional downstream processing, presents significant implications for sustainable and economical manufacturing of porous silicon.