A thin discontinuous layer of metal such as Au, Pt, or Au/Pd is deposited on a silicon surface. The surface is then etched in a solution including HF and an oxidant for a brief period, as little as a couple seconds to one hour. A preferred oxidant is H.sub.2 O.sub.2. Morphology and light emitting properties of porous silicon can be selectively controlled as a function of the type of metal deposited, Si doping type, silicon doping level, and/or etch time. Electrical assistance is unnecessary during the chemical etching of the invention, which may be conducted in the presence or absence of illumination.