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How ion bombardment reshapes metal surfaces
Date:5/22/2012

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] To modify a metal surface at the scale of atoms and molecules for instance to refine the wiring in computer chips or the reflective silver in optical components manufacturers shower it with ions. While the process may seem high-tech and precise, the technique has been limited by the lack of understanding of the underlying physics. In a new study, Brown University engineers modeled noble gas ion bombardments with unprecedented richness, providing long-sought insights into how it works.

"Surface patterns and stresses caused by ion beam bombardments have been extensively studied experimentally but could not be predicted accurately so far," said Kyung-Suk Kim, professor of engineering at Brown and co-author of the study published May 23 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A. "The new discovery is expected to provide predictive design capability for controlling the surface patterns and stresses in nanotechnology products."

The improved understanding could open the door to new technologies, Kim said, such as new approaches to make flexible electronics, biocompatible surfaces for medical devices, and more damage-tolerant and radiation-resistant surfaces. The research applies to so-called "FCC" metals such as copper, silver, gold, nickel, and aluminum. Those metals are crystals made up of cubic arrangements of atoms with one at each corner and one in each cube-face center.

Scientists have been trying to explain the complicated process for decades, and more recently they have begun to try modeling it on computers. Kim said the analysis of the Brown team, including lead author and postdoctoral scholar Sang-Pil Kim, was more sophisticated than previous attempts that focused on a single bombardment event and only isolated point defects within the metal substrate.

"In this work, for the first time, we investigate collective behavior of those defects during ion bombardments in terms of
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

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How ion bombardment reshapes metal surfaces
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