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Phys Rev Lett. 2014 Mar 28;112(12):126102. Epub 2014 Mar 26.

Morphology of monolayer MgO films on Ag(100): switching from corrugated islands to extended flat terraces.

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  • 1IMEM-CNR, UOS Genova, Via Dodecaneso 33, 16146 Genova, Italy and Dipartimento di Fisica, Universit√† di Genova, Via Dodecaneso 33, 16146 Genova, Italy.
  • 2IMEM-CNR, UOS Genova, Via Dodecaneso 33, 16146 Genova, Italy.


The ability to engineer nearly perfect ultrathin oxide layers, up to the limit of monolayer thickness, is a key issue for nanotechnological applications. Here we face the difficult and important case of ultrathin MgO films on Ag(100), for which no extended and well-ordered layers could thus far be produced in the monolayer limit. We demonstrate that their final morphology depends not only on the usual growth parameters (crystal temperature, metal flux, and oxygen partial pressure), but also on aftergrowth treatments controlling so far neglected thermodynamics constraints. We thus succeed in tuning the shape of the oxide films from irregular, nanometer-sized, monolayer-thick islands to slightly larger, perfectly squared, bilayer islands, to extended monolayers limited apparently only by substrate steps.

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