Research Article

Nanometer-Thick Equilibrium Films: The Interface Between Thermodynamics and Atomistics

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Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 206-209
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201596

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Abstract

Nanometer-thick films at interfaces and surfaces exist in various materials and can substantially influence their properties. Whether these films are an equilibrium or transient state is debated. To address this question, we equilibrated 1.2-nanometer-thick films at gold-sapphire interfaces in the presence of anorthite glass and measured the solid-solid interface energy. The equilibrated film significantly reduced the interfacial energy and could be described by the Gibbs adsorption isotherm expanded to include structure in addition to chemical excess. Unlike artificially made conventional thin films, these films do not break up during equilibration and offer an alternative design criterion for thin-film technology. These results demonstrate that nanometer-thick films at interfaces and surfaces can be an equilibrium state and included in phase diagrams with dedicated tie-lines.

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