Unraveling atomic-level self-organization at the plasma-material interface

JP Allain and A Shetty, JOURNAL OF PHYSICS D-APPLIED PHYSICS, 50, 283002 (2017).

DOI: 10.1088/1361-6463/aa7506

The intrinsic dynamic interactions at the plasma-material interface and critical role of irradiation-driven mechanisms at the atomic scale during exposure to energetic particles require a priori the use of in situ surface characterization techniques. Characterization of 'active' surfaces during modification at atomic-scale levels is becoming more important as advances in processing modalities are limited by an understanding of the behavior of these surfaces under realistic environmental conditions. Self-organization from exposure to non- equilibrium and thermalized plasmas enable dramatic control of surface morphology, topography, composition, chemistry and structure yielding the ability to tune material properties with an unprecedented level of control. Deciphering self-organization mechanisms of nanoscale morphology (e.g. nanodots, ripples) and composition on a variety of materials including: compound semiconductors, semiconductors, ceramics, polymers and polycrystalline metals via low-energy ion-beam assisted plasma irradiation are critical to manipulate functionality in nanostructured systems. By operating at ultra-low energies near the damage threshold, irradiation-driven defect engineering can be optimized and surface-driven mechanisms controlled. Tunability of optical, electronic, magnetic and bioactive properties is realized by reaching metastable phases controlled by atomic-scale irradiation-driven mechanisms elucidated by novel in situ diagnosis coupled to atomistic- level computational tools. Emphasis will be made on tailored surface modification from plasma-enhanced environments on particle-surface interactions and their subsequent modification of hard and soft matter interfaces. In this review, we examine current trends towards in situ and in operando surface and sub-surface characterization to unravel atomic-scale mechanisms at the plasma-material interface. This work will emphasize on recent advances in the field of plasma and ion-induced nanopatterning and nanostructuring as well as ultra-thin film deposition. Future outlook will examine the critical role of complementary surface-sensitive techniques and trends towards advances in both in situ and in operando tooling.

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