The invention is generally related to process for generating one or more molecules having the formula Si.sub.xH.sub.y, Si.sub.xD.sub.y, Si.sub.xH.sub.yD.sub.z, and mixtures thereof, where x,y and z are integers .gtoreq.1, H is hydrogen and D is deuterium, such as silane, comprising the steps of: providing a silicon containing material, wherein the silicon containing material includes at least 20 weight percent silicon atoms based on the total weight of the silicon containing material; generating a plasma capable of vaporizing a silicon atom, sputtering a silicon atom, or both using a plasma generating device; and contacting the plasma to the silicon containing material in a chamber having an atmosphere that includes at least about 0.5 mole percent hydrogen atoms and/or deuterium atoms based on the total moles of atoms in the atmosphere; so that a molecule having the formula Si.sub.xH.sub.y; (e.g., silane) is generated. The process preferably includes a step of removing one or more impurities from the Si.sub.xH.sub.y (e.g., the silane) to form a clean Si.sub.xH.sub.y, Si.sub.xD.sub.y, Si.sub.xH.sub.yD.sub.z (e.g., silane). The process may also include a step of reacting the Si.sub.xH.sub.y, Si.sub.xD.sub.y, Si.sub.xH.sub.yD.sub.z (e.g., the silane) to produce a high purity silicon containing material such as electronic grade metallic silicon, photovoltaic grade metallic silicon, or both.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
The invention was made with U.S. Government support under National Science Foundation Award No. IIP-0740871 and under the U.S. Department of Energy Contract No. DE-FG36-08GO18009. The Government has certain rights to the invention.