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Title: Modelling silver thin film growth on zinc oxide
Author: Lloyd, Adam L.
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2017
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Ag thin film growth on ZnO substrates has been investigated theoretically using multi-timescale simulation methods. The models are based on an atomistic approach where the interactions between atoms are treated classically using a mixture of fixed and variable charge potential energy functions. After some preliminary tests it was found that existing fixed charge potential functions were unreliable for surface growth simulations. This resulted in the development of a ReaxFF variable charge potential fitted to Ag/ZnO surface interactions. Ab initio models of simple crystal structures and surface configurations were used for potential fitting and testing. The dynamic interaction of the Ag atoms with the ZnO surface was first investigated using single point depositions, via molecular dynamics, whereby the Ag impacted various points on an irreducible symmetry zone of the ZnO surface at a range of energies. This enabled the determination of the relative numbers of atoms that could penetrate, reflect or bond to the surface as a function of incident energy. The results showed that at an energy of up to 10 eV, most atoms deposited adsorbed on top of the surface layer. The second part of the dynamic interaction involved a multi-timescale technique whereby molecular dynamics (MD) was used in the initial stages followed by an adaptive kinetic Monte Carlo (AKMC) approach to model the diffusion over the surface between impacts. An impact energy of 3 eV was chosen for this investigation. Ag was grown on various ZnO surfaces including perfect polar, O-deficient and surfaces with step edges. Initial growth suggests that Ag prefers to be spread out across a perfect surface until large clusters are forced to form. After further first layer growth, subsequent Ag atoms begin to deposit on the existing Ag clusters and are unlikely to join the first layer. Ag island formation (as mentioned within the literature) can then occur via this growth mechanism. O-deficient regions of ZnO surfaces result in unfavourable Ag adsorption sites and cause cluster formation to occur away from O-vacancies. In contrast, ZnO step edges attract deposited Ag atoms and result in the migration of surface Ag atoms to under-coordinated O atoms in the step edge. Various improvements have been made to the existing methodology in which transitions are determined. A new method for determining defects within a system, by considering the coordination number of atoms, is shown to increase the number of transitions found during single ended search methods such as the relaxation and translation (RAT) algorithm. A super-basin approach based on the mean rate method is also introduced as a method of accelerating a simulation when small energy barriers dominate. This method effectively combines states connected by small energy barriers into a single large basin and calculates the mean time to escape such basin. To accelerate growth simulations further and allow larger systems to be considered, a lattice based adaptive kinetic Monte Carlo (LatAKMC) method is developed. As off-lattice AKMC and MD results suggest Ag resides in highly symmetric adsorption sites and that low energy deposition events lead to no penetrating Ag atoms or surface deformation, the on-lattice based approach is used to grow Ag on larger perfect polar ZnO surfaces. Results from the LatAKMC approach agree with off-lattice AKMC findings and predict Ag island formation. Critical island sizes of Ag on ZnO are also approximated using a mean rate approach. Single Ag atoms are placed above an existing Ag cluster and all transition states are treated as belonging to a single large super-basin . Results indicate that small Ag clusters on the perfect ZnO surface grow in the surface plane until a critical island size of around 500 atoms is reached. Once a critical island size is reached, multiple Ag ad-atoms will deposit on the island before existing Ag atoms join the cluster layer and hence islands will grow upwards. A marked difference is seen for second layer critical island sizes; second layer Ag islands are predicted to be two orders of magnitude smaller (< 7 atoms). This analysis suggests that Ag on ZnO (0001) may exhibit Stranski-Krastanov (layer plus island) growth.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Molecular dynamics ; Adaptive kinetic Monte Carlo ; Thin film growth ; Silver ; Zinc oxide