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Strain-induced growth instability and nanoscale surface patterning in perovskite thin films.

  • Author(s): Pandya, Shishir
  • Damodaran, Anoop R
  • Xu, Ruijuan
  • Hsu, Shang-Lin
  • Agar, Joshua C
  • Martin, Lane W
  • et al.

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Despite extensive studies on the effects of epitaxial strain on the evolution of the lattice and properties of materials, considerably less work has explored the impact of strain on growth dynamics. In this work, we demonstrate a growth-mode transition from 2D-step flow to self-organized, nanoscale 3D-island formation in PbZr0.2Ti0.8O3/SrRuO3/SrTiO3 (001) heterostructures as the kinetics of the growth process respond to the evolution of strain. With increasing heterostructure thickness and misfit dislocation formation at the buried interface, a periodic, modulated strain field is generated that alters the adatom binding energy and, in turn, leads to a kinetic instability that drives a transition from 2D growth to ordered, 3D-island formation. The results suggest that the periodically varying binding energy can lead to inhomogeneous adsorption kinetics causing preferential growth at certain sites. This, in conjunction with the presence of an Ehrlich-Schwoebel barrier, gives rise to long-range, periodically-ordered arrays of so-called "wedding cake" 3D nanostructures which self-assemble along the [100] and [010].

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