Confined Etching within 2D and 3D Colloidal Crystals for Tunable Nanostructured Templates: Local Environment Matters

We report the isotropic etching of 2D and 3D polystyrene (PS) nanosphere <i><i>hcp</i></i> arrays using a benchtop O<sub>2</sub> radio frequency plasma cleaner. Unexpectedly, this slow isotropic etching allows tuning of both particle diameter and shape. Due to a suppressed etching rate at the point of contact between the PS particles originating from their arrangement in 2D and 3D crystals, the spherical PS templates are converted into polyhedral structures with well-defined hexagonal cross sections in directions parallel and normal to the crystal <i>c</i>-axis. Additionally, we found that particles located at the edge (surface) of the <i><i>hcp</i></i> 2D (3D) crystals showed increased etch rates compared to those of the particles within the crystals. This indicates that 2D and 3D order affect how nanostructures chemically interact with their surroundings. This work also shows that the morphology of nanostructures periodically arranged in 2D and 3D supercrystals can be modified via gas-phase etching and programmed by the superlattice symmetry. To show the potential applications of this approach, we demonstrate the lithographic transfer of the PS template hexagonal cross section into Si substrates to generate Si nanowires with well-defined hexagonal cross sections using a combination of nanosphere lithography and metal-assisted chemical etching.