Porous silicon is a promising material for MEMS because of its unique electrical, thermal, optical, and absorptive properties. This work measures the thermal conductivity of a silicon layer with 40 percent porosity at temperatures between 20 and 300 K using Joule heating and electrical-resistance thermometry. The room-temperature thermal conductivity is 0.43 Wm−1K−1, which is almost three orders of magnitude less than the value for single-crystal silicon. The data are interpreted using a new model based on electron microscopy, which shows a sponge-like morphology with embedded crystalline regions. The model separately treats the contributions of the sponge-like material, in which the solid regions are assumed to be amorphous silicon, and the larger crystallites, in which the conductivity is reduced by boundary scattering. The present work is particularly useful for MEMS based on silicon with porosity below 50 percent, for which no thermal conductivity data were previously available.

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