2008-05-14Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1088/1367-2630/10/5/053017
Impurity-induced step interactions: a kinetic Monte Carlo study
A one-dimensional (1D) continuum description of growth on vicinal surfaces in the presence of immobile impurities predicts that the impurities can induce attractive step interactions when they suppress the diffusion of adatoms on the surface, thus destabilizing the equidistant step train. In the present communication, we verify this prediction by kinetic Monte Carlo simulations of a 2D solid-on-solid model. We identify the conditions where quasi-1D step flow is stable against island formation or step meandering, and analyse in detail the statistics of the impurity concentration profile. The sign and strength of the impurity-induced step interactions is determined by monitoring the motion of pairs of steps. Assemblies containing up to 20 steps turn out to be unstable towards the emission of single steps. This behaviour is traced back to the small value of the effective, impurity-induced attachment asymmetry for adatoms. An analytic estimate for the critical number of steps needed to stabilize a large step bunch is derived and confirmed by simulations of a 1D model.