Seduction of Finding Universality in Sputtering Yields Due to Cluster Bombardment of Solids

Robert J. Paruch, Zbigniew Postawa, Barbara J. Garrison

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15 Scopus citations


ConspectusUniversal descriptions are appealing because they simplify the description of different (but similar) physical systems, allow the determination of general properties, and have practical applications. Recently, the concept of universality has been applied to the dependence of the sputtering (ejection) yield due to energetic cluster bombardment versus the energy of the incident cluster. It was observed that the spread in data points can be reduced if the yield Y and initial projectile cluster kinetic energy E are expressed in quantities scaled by the number of cluster atoms n, that is, Y/n versus E/n. The convergence of the data points is, however, not perfect, especially when the results for molecular and atomic solids are compared. In addition, the physics underlying the apparent universal dependence in not fully understood. For the study presented in this Account, we performed molecular dynamics simulations of Arn cluster bombardment of molecular (benzene, octane, and β-carotene) and atomic (Ag) solids in order to address the physical basis of the apparent universal dependence. We have demonstrated that the convergence of the data points between molecular and atomic solids can be improved if the binding energy of the solid U0 is included and the dependence is presented as Y/(E/U0) versus (E/U0)/n. As a material property, the quantity U0 is defined per the basic unit of material, which is an atom for atomic solids and a molecule for molecular solids. Analogously, the quantity Y is given in atoms and molecules, respectively. The simulations show that, for almost 3 orders of magnitude variation of (E/U0)/n, there are obvious similarities in the ejection mechanisms between the molecular and atomic solids, thus supporting the concept of universality. For large (E/U0)/n values, the mechanism of ejection is the fluid flow from a cone-shaped volume. This regime of (E/U0)/n is generally accessed experimentally by clusters with hundreds of atoms and results in the largest yields. For molecular systems, a large fraction of the total energy E is consumed by internal excitation and molecular fragmentation, which are energy loss channels not present in atomic solids. For small (E/U0)/n values, the cluster deforms the surface and the ejection occurs from a ring-shaped ridge of the forming crater rim. This regime of (E/U0)/n is generally accessed experimentally by clusters with thousands of atoms and results in the smallest yields. For the molecular systems, there is little or no molecular fragmentation. The simulations indicate, however, that the representation which includes U0 as the only material property cannot be completely universal, because there are other material properties which influence the sputtering efficiency. Furthermore, neither the Y/n nor Y/(E/U0) representation includes the energy loss physics associated with molecular fragmentation in the high (E/U0)/n regime. The analysis of the universal concept implies for practical applications that if the objective of the experiment is large material removal, then the high energy per cluster atom regime is applicable. If the objective is little or no molecular fragmentation in organic materials, then the low energy per atom regime is appropriate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2529-2536
Number of pages8
JournalAccounts of Chemical Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 15 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)


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