Although silicon does not possess a dipolar bulk second order nonlinear susceptibility due to its centro-symmetric crystal structure, in recent years several attempts were undertaken to create such a property in silicon. This review presents the different sources of a second order susceptibility (χ(2)) in silicon and the connected second order nonlinear effects which were investigated up to now. After an introduction, a theoretical overview discusses the second order nonlinearity in general and distinguishes between the dipolar contribution—which is usually dominating in non-centrosymmetric structures—and the quadrupolar contribution, which even exists in centro-symmetric materials. Afterwards, the classic work on second harmonic generation from silicon surfaces in reflection measurements is reviewed. Due to the abrupt symmetry breaking at surfaces and interfaces locally a dipolar second order susceptibility appears, resulting in, e.g., second harmonic generation. Since the bulk contribution is usually small, the study of this second harmonic signal allows a sensitive observation of the surface/interface conditions. The impact of covering films, strain, electric fields, and defect states at the interfaces was already investigated in this way. With the advent of silicon photonics and the search for ever faster electrooptic modulators, the interest turned to the creation of a dipolar bulk χ(2) in silicon. These efforts have been focussing on several experiments applying an inhomogeneous strain to the silicon lattice to break its centro-symmetry. Recent results suggesting the impact of electric fields which are exerted from fixed charges in adjacent covering layers are also included. After a subsequent summary on “competing” concepts using not Si but Si-related materials, the paper will end with some final conclusions, suggesting possible future research direction in this dynamically developing field.

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