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In crystalline silicon, irradiated with 60 and 80 MeV energy silicon ions, regions of high defect densities were located by repeatedly etching the sample and measuring the lifetime of minority carriers, τ. The values of τ before etching were 10 and 8 μs in the 60 and 80 MeV ion irradiated sides, respectively, and 19 μs in the unirradiated side. On etching the samples, these values of the irradiated side initially increased slowly but later on, as the total thickness of the etched silicon approached the ion ranges, they increased steeply. However, the value of τ in the unirradiated side remained unchanged even after etching. These results show that the regions of high defect densities are situated below the surface at depths of 20 and 27 μm, respectively, in 60 and 80 MeV ion irradiated samples. These coincide, respectively, with the projected depth in silicon at which the 60 and 80 MeV silicon ions deposit a maximum amount of energy through nuclear collisions. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.