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Highly ordered silicide ripple patterns induced by medium-energy ion irradiation

Redondo-Cubero, A.; Palomares, F. J.; Hübner, R.; Gago, R.; Vázquez, L.

We study the nanopatterning of silicon surfaces under near-normal 40-keV Ar+ sputtering with simultaneous Fe oblique codeposition. The ion-beam incidence was kept at 15°, for which no pattern is produced in the absence of metal incorporation. Morphological and compositional analyses were performed by atomic force microscopy, in its morphological and electrical modes, Rutherford backscattering spectrometry, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, scanning Auger, as well as transmission and scanning electron microscopy. Initially, nanodot structures randomly emerge, which, with increasing ion fluence, become progressively aligned along the perpendicular direction to the Fe flux. With increasing fluence, they coalesce, leading to a ripple pattern. The pattern dynamics and characteristics are faster and enhanced, respectively, as the distance to the metal source decreases (i.e., as the metal content increases). For the highest metal flux, the ripples can become rather large (up to 18 μm) and straighter, with few defects, and a pattern wavelength close to 500 nm, while keeping the surface roughness close to 15 nm. Furthermore, for a fixed ion fluence, the pattern order is improved for higher metal flux. In contrast, the pattern order enhancement rate with ion fluence does not depend on the metal flux. Our experimental observations agree with the predictions and assumptions of the model by Bradley [R. M. Bradley, Phys. Rev. B 87, 205408 (2013)] Several compositional and morphological studies reveal that the ripple pattern is also a compositional one, in which the ripple peaks have a higher iron silicide content, in agreement with the model. Likewise, the ripple structures develop along the perpendicular direction to the Fe flux, and the pattern wavelength increases as the metal flux decreases with a behavior qualitatively consistent with the model predictions.

Publ.-Id: 31422