The etching of hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a‐Si:H) in thermally generated atomic hydrogen has been investigated in detail, utilizing real time spectroellipsometry for characterization and end‐point detection. When properly controlled, etching can yield ultrathin microcrystalline Si (μc‐Si:H) films of relatively high density on virtually any substrate material. These films are unique in that their microstructure is established by the crystallization of the near‐surface a‐Si:H, rather than by the nucleation of crystallites on the substrate, as occurs for plasma‐enhanced chemical vapor‐deposited μc‐Si:H films.

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