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Surface morphology of polycrystalline silicon prepared by excimer laser annealing has been investigated. It was found that when a thin amorphous Si film is irradiated by excimer laser, pillars are formed on the surface of the crystallized polysilicon. To find out the mechanism, various preparation parameters such as laser power densities, shot numbers and the thickness of the amorphous Si have been studied. Several intermediate patterns have been found which illustrate the sequential formation of pillars. A surface tension model is proposed to explain these patterns. This mechanism can be applied to prepare the self-assembled silicon quantum dots, whose average size and height are 14.2 and 3.7 nm, respectively. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.