We study the relaxation to equilibrium of two dimensional islands containing up to 20 000 atoms by Kinetic Monte Carlo simulations. We find that the commonly assumed relaxation mechanism - curvature-driven relaxation via atom diffusion - cannot explain the results obtained at low temperatures, where the island edges consist in large facets. Specifically, our simulations show that the exponent characterizing the dependence of the equilibration time on the island size is different at high and low temperatures, in contradiction with the above cited assumptions. Instead, we propose that - at low temperatures - the relaxation is limited by the nucleation of new atomic rows on the large facets: this allows us to explain both the activation energy and the island size dependence of the equilibration time.
- 05.70.Ln Nonequilibrium and irreversible thermodynamics
- 68.55.-a Thin film structure and morphology
- 82.65.Dp Thermodynamics of surfaces and interfaces
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics