Direct observations of the strain-limited island growth of Sn-doped GaAs(100)

A. M. Dabiran, S. M. Seutter, P. I. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We have used scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) in ultrahigh vacuum and atomic force microscopy (AFM) in air to investigate the microscopic mechanisms of Sn surface segregation during the molecular beam epitaxial growth of GaAs and AlAs(100). Submonolayer amounts of Sn segregate to the surface during growth and strongly modify the growth kinetics. This is indicated by both extraordinary reflection high energy electron diffraction (RHEED) measurements, and the STM and AFM images of rapidly quenched growth fronts. At the high surface coverages of 0.1-0.6 monolayers of Sn, studied in this work, neither step bunching nor three-dimensional (3D) growth of GaAs(100) was observed. Instead, STM and RHEED measurements indicated a significantly enhanced layer-by-layer growth of GaAs with increasing surface coverage of Sn. STM snapshots of the initial stages of GaAs growth revealed 2D islands which contained a higher-than-equilibrium bulk concentration of Sn, in Ga-substitutional sites, of up to 50%. Other directly observed Sn effects which are presented in this work include the removal of GaAs(100) island growth anisotropy and the formation of 2D islands with a relatively narrow distribution of size and separation. The completion of the top layers is shown to proceed by the coalescence of these islands before any significant nucleation of the next layer islands. This effect is used to explain the Sn enhancement of the layer-by-layer growth which was indicated in our RHEED and scanning probe observations. A model is presented for Sn segregation which explains these results based on an island-size-dependent, strain-driven, oscillatory Sn occupation of Ga-substitutional sites and surface interstitial sites on top GaAs(100) layers during growth. This model, which introduces a strain-limiting mechanism for the size and shape of the 2D islands, can also explain the observed enhancement of postgrowth surface recovery, as well as a delayed onset in increasing adatom surface diffusion length with increasing Sn coverage. The main conclusion is that, if impurity incorporation results in significant strain, then in addition to step climbing by surface impurities, the exchange of incorporated impurities with native species in top layers can be an important path for impurity segregation during expitaxial growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-795
Number of pages13
JournalSurface Review and Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1998

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