Observation of Metastable Structural Excitations and Concerted Atomic Motions on a Crystal Surface

Science  13 Nov 1992:
Vol. 258, Issue 5085, pp. 1119-1122
DOI: 10.1126/science.258.5085.1119


The addition of a small number of lead atoms to a germanium(111) surface reduces the energy barrier for activated processes, and with a tunneling microscope it is possible to observe concerted atomic motions and metastable structures on this surface near room temperature. The formation and annihilation of these metastable structural surface excitations is associated with the shift in position of large numbers of germanium surface atoms along a specific row direction like beads on an abacus. The effect provides a mechanism for understanding the transport of atoms on a semiconductor surface.