Real time grazing incidence small angle x-ray scattering and x-ray fluorescence (XRF) are used to elucidate nanodot formation on silicon surfaces during low energy ion beam irradiation of ultrathin iron-coated silicon substrates. Four surface modification stages were identified: (1) surface roughening due to film erosion, (2) surface smoothing and silicon-iron mixing, (3) structure formation, and (4) structure smoothing. The results conclude that 2.5 × 1015 iron atoms in a 50 nm depth triggers surface nanopatterning with a correlated nanodots distance of 25 nm. Moreover, there is a wide window in time where the surface can have correlated nanostructures even after the removal of all the iron atoms from the sample as confirmed by XRF and ex-situ x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). In addition, in-situ XPS results indicated silicide formation, which plays a role in the structure formation mechanism.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)