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Epitaxial lateral overgrowth of tin spheres driven and directly observed by helium ion microscopy

Klingner, N.; Heinig, K.-H.; Tucholski, D.; Möller, W.; Hübner, R.; Bischoff, L.; Hlawacek, G.; Facsko, S.


Enhanced interstitial diffusion in tin is a phenomenon often observed during ion-beam irradiation and in lead-free solders. For the latter, this
not very well understood, strain-driven mechanism results in the growth of whiskers, which can lead to unwanted shorts in electronic designs. In ion-beam physics, this phenomenon is often observed as a result of the enhanced formation of Frenkel pairs in the energetic collision cascade. Here, we show how epitaxial growth of tin extrusions on tin-oxide-covered tin spheres can be induced and simultaneously observed by implanting helium using a helium ion microscope. Calculations of collision cascades based on the binary collision approximation and 3D-lattice-kinetic Monte Carlo simulations show that the implanted helium will occupy vacancy sites, leading to a tin interstitial excess. Sputtering and phase separation of the tin oxide skin, which is impermeable for tin atoms, create holes and will allow the epitaxial overgrowth to start. Simultaneously, helium accumulates inside the irradiated spheres. Fitting the simulations to the experimentally observed morphology allows us to estimate the tin to tin-oxide interface energy to be 1.98 J m−2 . Our approach allows the targeted initiation and in situ observation of interstitial diffusion-driven effects to improve the understanding of the tin-whisker growth mechanism observed in lead-free solders.

Keywords: helium ion microscope; tin whisker growth; defect kinetics

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