Physical Review Letters -- August 5, 1996 -- Volume 77, Issue 6, pp. 1091-1094

Size Scaling in the Decay of Metastable Structures

Elain S. Fu, M. D. Johnson, D.-J. Liu, J. D. Weeks, and Ellen D. Williams


The rate of thermal decay of special fabricated structures on Si(111) has been measured for structure sizes ranging from 28 to 50 Å high. The mechanism of the decay via motion of individual steps has been observed directly using scanning tunneling microscopy. The results are consistent with size-scaling predictions of theory, and show that mass transport occurs via a mechanism in which mass is conserved locally. In addition, the theory yields a quantitative prediction of the measured rates with no adjustable parameters when previously measured equilibrium values for step-step interactions and step wandering are used.
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