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We address experimentally the large-scale dynamics of Si(100) surfaces during the initial stages of anisotropic wet (KOH) chemical etching, which are characterized through atomic force microscopy. These systems are known to lead to the formation of characteristic pyramids, or hillocks, of typical sizes in the nanometric/micrometer scales, thus with the potential for a large number of applications that can benefit from the nanotexturing of Si surfaces. The present pattern formation process is very strongly disordered in space. We assess the space correlations in such a type of rough surface and elucidate the existence of a complex and rich morphological evolution, featuring at least three different regimes in just 10 min of etching. Such a complex time behavior cannot be consistently explained within a single formalism for dynamic scaling. The pyramidal structure reveals itself as the basic morphological motif of the surface throughout the dynamics. A detailed analysis of the surface slope distribution with etching time reveals that the texturing process induced by the KOH etching is rather gradual and progressive, which accounts for the dynamic complexity. The various stages of the morphological evolution can be accurately reproduced by computer-generated surfaces composed by uncorrelated pyramidal structures. To reach such an agreement, the key parameters are the average pyramid size, which increases with etching time, its distribution and the surface coverage by the pyramidal structures.
anisotropic etching; Si pyramidal structures; dynamic scaling theory; atomic force microscopy