Mobile Point Defects and Atomic Basis for Structural Transformations of a Crystal Surface

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Science  22 Jul 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5171, pp. 490-496
DOI: 10.1126/science.265.5171.490


Structural transformations on elemental semiconductor surfaces typically occur above several hundred degrees Celsius, and the atomic motions involved are extremely rapid and difficult to observe. However, on the (111) surface of germanium, a few lead atoms catalyze atomic motions so that they can be observed with a tunneling microscope at temperatures below 80°C. Mass transport and structural changes are caused by the creation and propagation of both vacancy-like and interstitial-like point defects within the crystal surface. The availability of dangling bonds on the surface is critical. A detailed atomic model for the observed motions has been developed and is used to explain the structural phase transition Ge(111)-c(2x8) ↔ 1x1, which occurs near 300°C.