Editors : P. D. Bristowe, D. E. Fowler, A. D. Romig
a1 Surface & Microanalysis Science Division National Institute of Standards and Technology Gaithersburg, MD 20899
A controversy has arisen in the past year over whether or not the growth of Fe on Ag(100) at room temperature occurs by a layer-by-layer mechanism. The present work attempts to address this controversy with an investigation of the issues, primarily by x-ray photoelectron (XPS) and Auger electron forward scattering, but with important supporting data from low-energy electron diffraction (LEED), and reflection high-energy electron diffraction (RHEED) oscillations. The results of this work suggest that the origin of the controversy lies in different substrate preparation techniques which produce different atomic step densities on the Ag(100) surface. The step sites are implicated as being the initiators of major departures from a layer-by-layer growth mode whenever most of the deposited Fe atoms have sufficient mobility to reach these steps. However, even when the Fe atoms cannot reach these steps it appears that atomic place-exchange occurs with ≥25% of the top-layer Ag atoms. Atomic place-exchange mechanisms, which could account for this intermixing, have been observed in recent molecular-dynamics simulations of epitakial growth. Thus it seems probable that under the conditions that appear to produce layer-by-layer growth, the growth begins as layer-by-layer growth of an FeAg alloy, and only becomes layer-by-layer in pure Fe as the segregating Ag atoms gradually get left behind in the growing Fe film.