Oxidation-driven surface dynamics on NiAl(100)
Atomic steps, a defect common to all crystal surfaces, can play an important role in many physical and chemical processes. However, attempts to predict surface dynamics under nonequilibrium conditions are usually frustrated by poor knowledge of the atomic processes of surface motion arising from mass transport from/to surface steps. Using low-energy electron microscopy that spatially and temporally resolves oxide film growth during the oxidation of NiAl(100) we demonstrate that surface steps are impermeable to oxide film growth. The advancement of the oxide occurs exclusively on the same terrace and requires the coordinated migration of surface steps. The resulting piling up of surface steps ahead of the oxide growth front progressively impedes the oxide growth. This process is reversed during oxide decomposition. The migration of the substrate steps is found to be a surface-step version of the well-known Hele-Shaw problem, governed by detachment (attachment) of Al atoms at step edges induced by the oxide growth (decomposition). By comparing with the oxidation of NiAl(110) that exhibits unimpeded oxide film growth over substrate steps we suggest that whenever steps are the source of atoms used for oxide growth they limit the oxidation process; when atoms are supplied from the bulk, the oxidation rate is not limited by the motion of surface steps.
Oxidation; Aluminum--Anodic oxidation
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
DOI of Published Version
Chen, Xidong, "Oxidation-driven surface dynamics on NiAl(100)" (2015). Faculty Articles & Research. 55.