Step free energies at faceted solid surfaces: Theory and atomistic calculations for steps on the Cu(111) surface

R Freitas and T Frolov and M Asta, PHYSICAL REVIEW B, 95, 155444 (2017).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.95.155444

A theory for the thermodynamic properties of steps on faceted crystalline surfaces is presented. The formalism leads to the definition of step excess quantities, including an excess step stress that is the step analogy of surface stress. The approach is used to develop a relationship between the temperature dependence of the step free energy (gamma(st)) and step excess quantities for energy and stress that can be readily calculated by atomistic simulations. We demonstrate the application of this formalism in thermodynamic-integration (TI) calculations of the step free energy, based on molecular-dynamics simulations, considering < 110 > steps on the 111 surface of a classical potential model for elemental Cu. In this application we employ the Frenkel-Ladd approach to compute the reference value of gamma(st) for the TI calculations. Calculated results for excess energy and stress show relatively weak temperature dependencies up to a homologous temperature of approximately 0.6, above which these quantities increase strongly and the step stress becomes more isotropic. From the calculated excess quantities we compute gamma(st) st over the temperature range from zero up to the melting point (Tm). We find that. st remains finite up to T-m, indicating the absence of a roughening temperature for this 111 surface facet, but decreases by roughly fifty percent from the zero-temperature value. The strongest temperature dependence occurs above homologous temperatures of approximately 0.6, where the step becomes configurationally disordered due to the formation of point defects and appreciable capillary fluctuations.

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