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From covalent bonding to coalescence of metallic nanorods

Soohwan Lee and Hanchen Huang*

Author Affiliations

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, USA

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2011, 6:559  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-6-559

Published: 25 October 2011


Growth of metallic nanorods by physical vapor deposition is a common practice, and the origin of their dimensions is a characteristic length scale that depends on the three-dimensional Ehrlich-Schwoebel (3D ES) barrier. For most metals, the 3D ES barrier is large so the characteristic length scale is on the order of 200 nm. Using density functional theory-based ab initio calculations, this paper reports that the 3D ES barrier of Al is small, making it infeasible to grow Al nanorods. By analyzing electron density distributions, this paper shows that the small barrier is the result of covalent bonding in Al. Beyond the infeasibility of growing Al nanorods by physical vapor deposition, the results of this paper suggest a new mechanism of controlling the 3D ES barrier and thereby nanorod growth. The modification of local degree of covalent bonding, for example, via the introduction of surfactants, can increase the 3D ES barrier and promote nanorod growth, or decrease the 3D ES barrier and promote thin film growth.

metal surface steps; adatom; diffusion; covalent bonding; simulation