Low-surface-tension metals were predicted to be insufficient to catalyze the growth of silicon nanowires (SiNWs) in vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) mode while counter examples do exist, for example, in the tin- or indium-catalyzed SiNWs. This puzzle remains largely unresolved. We first examine the local tension-force-balance in a tin-catalyzed SiNW by using a cross-section analysis. We found that the existence of an ultrathin sidewall-spreading catalyst layer helps to stabilize the catalyst drop during growth. The predicted contact-angle evolution, by an energetic balance model, is also supported by the experimental data. These results bring critical understanding on the low-surface-tension catalyzed VLS process.

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