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We show that undoped silicon waveguides may suffer of up to 1.8 dB/cm free-carrier absorption caused by improper surface passivation. To verify the effects of free-carriers, we apply a gate field to the waveguides. Smallest losses correspond to higher electrical sheet resistances and are generally obtained with non-zero gate fields. The presence of free carriers for zero gate field is attributed to surface transfer doping. These results open new perspectives for minimizing propagation losses in silicon waveguides and for obtaining low-loss and highly conductive silicon films without applying a gate voltage.


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