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Phys Rev Lett. 2002 Jan 7;88(1):016102. Epub 2001 Dec 14.

Quantitative determination of the metastability of flat Ag overlayers on GaAs(110).

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Department of Physics, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Atomically flat ultrathin Ag films on GaAs(110) can be formed through a kinetic pathway. However, such films are metastable and will transform to 3D islands upon high temperature annealing. Using scanning tunneling microscopy, we have measured quantitatively the layer-resolved metastability of flat Ag overlayers as they evolve toward their stable state, and deduced the corresponding kinetic barrier the system has to overcome in reaching the stable state. These results indicate that the metastability of the Ag overlayer is defined by the quantum nature of the conduction electrons confined within the overlayer.

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