Growth and Erosion of Thin Solid Films

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Science  20 Jul 1990:
Vol. 249, Issue 4966, pp. 264-268
DOI: 10.1126/science.249.4966.264


Thin films that are grown by the process of sputtering are, by and large, quite unlike the smooth, featureless structures that one might expect. In general, these films have a complicated surface morphology and an extended network of grooves and voids in their interiors. Such features can have a profound effect on the physical properties of a thin film. The surface irregularities and the bulk defects are the result of a growth instability due to competitive shadowing, an effect that also plays a role in geological processes such as erosion. For amorphous thin films, the shadow instability can be described by a remarkably simple model, which can be shown to reproduce many important observed characteristics of thin film morphology.