This paper describes an empirical study on the microstructure of thin film gold samples using
a scanning probe microscope (SPM). Thin films of different thicknesses ranging from 100 to
1000 nm are considered at ambient conditions. In the performed experiment, particular
attention is payed to characterising (a) the microscopic structure or roughness of the gold
surfaces and (b) the growth behaviour of the gold films.

© All Rights Reserved

4 tayangan

This paper describes an empirical study on the microstructure of thin film gold samples using
a scanning probe microscope (SPM). Thin films of different thicknesses ranging from 100 to
1000 nm are considered at ambient conditions. In the performed experiment, particular
attention is payed to characterising (a) the microscopic structure or roughness of the gold
surfaces and (b) the growth behaviour of the gold films.

© All Rights Reserved

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Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

May, 2017

Contents 1

1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

2 Mathematical Description of Rough Surfaces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

3 Experimental Approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

4 Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

5 Discussion and Suggestions for Further Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

6 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Bibliography 15

1 Introduction

The development of scanning probe microscopy (SPM) unlocked the possibility to study the

structure of materials in particular metals on distance scales smaller than ever before.

This paper describes the empirical study on the microstructure of thin film gold samples

using a scanning probe microscope (SPM). Thin films of different thicknesses ranging from

100 to 1000 nm are considered at ambient conditions. In the performed experiment, particular

attention is payed to characterising (a) the microscopic structure or roughness of the gold

surfaces and (b) the growth behaviour of the gold films.

This paper is organised as follows. In section 2 the mathematical and statistical descrip-

tion of rough surfaces and their growth behaviour is reviewed. Subsequently, the experimental

approach is briefly explained in section 3. Following up on this, the results and corresponding

analysis is given in section 4. The obtained results are discussed and possibilities for future

extensions of this work are proposed in section 5. Finally, conclusions are drawn and findings

are summarised in section 6.

In this section, the mathematical characterisation of rough surfaces and their growth be-

haviour will be treated. Section 2.1 starts with a discussion of the height distribution and cor-

1

2. Mathematical Description of Rough Surfaces 2

responding parameters. Then, in section 2.2, the height-height correlation function (HHCF)

and growth characteristics of (self-affine) rough surfaces will be introduced.

The structure of a rough surface can be described by a single random variable h(r), describing

the height of the surface at a position r relative to a (arbitrarily chosen) reference height

level. In this work the convention will that the reference height which is set to the value

zero is the lowest height value present in the considered dataset. The position vector r is

defined in the surface plane. That is, if the height of the surface is measured along the z-axis,

the position vector r is defined on xy-plane: r = (rx x , ry y).

The random variable h(r) is completely specified by the height probability density func-

tion (h) (PDF), or simply height distribution (HD). This function gives the probability for

a random height value to lie in the interval h and h + dh. Furthermore, the distribution (h)

is normalized to unity, that is: Z +

(h)dh 1. (1)

To proceed, it usually assumed that the height distribution function is well-described by a

Gaussian distribution. Setting the average hhi to zero, the variance 2 = hh2 i hhi2 is

equal to the expectation value of h2 , whose square root is usually called the RMS roughness

amplitude w. That is, (h) is given by:

1 2 /2w 2

(h) = eh . (2)

2w2

Indeed, the Gaussian form of the height distribution function is to be confirmed by empirical

determination of the distribution function: this will be one of the core aims of the experiment.

Various higher order moments of (h) will be introduced below that allow for convenient

comparison between the empirically determined height distribution function and the Gaussian

assumption of Eq. 2.

As mentioned above, RMS roughness amplitude w is defined as the square root of the ex-

pectation value hh2 i and forms an important parameter in the characterisation of a rough

surface. Formally, w is given by:

Z + 1/2

p 2

w hh2 i = h (h) dh (3)

The RMS roughness amplitude describes the spread of (h) around the average or mean,

which is set to zero.

2.1.2 Skewness

The 3-th order moment of the height distribution, usually called the skewness, is a measure

for (a)symmetry of the distribution. Skewness is denoted by 3 and defined by:

Z +

1

3 = 3 h3 (h) dh (4)

w

3

For a Gaussian distribution, the skewness equals zero since it is symmetric around the peak

value (which is set to h 0). The skewness is positive or negative if the distribution has a

tail extending towards the right or left (relative to the peak), respectively.

2.1.3 Kurtosis

Kurtosis (4 ), the 4-th order moment of the height distribution is a measure for the sharpness

of the height distribution function. It is given by:

Z +

1

4 = 4 h4 (h)dh, (5)

w

For a Gaussian, 4 = 3 and for a mildly and sharply peaked distributions are indicated by

4 < 3 and 4 > 3, respectively. In addition, the so-called excess kurtosis is also regularly

considered in favor of the standard definition of kurtosis. The excess kurtosis is defined as:

Z +

1

4 = 4 h4 (h)dh 3, (6)

w

such that a Gaussian satisfies 4 = 0 and mildly (sharply) peaked distributions have 4 < 0

(> 0). This convention will be used from now on. Also, explicit reference to the excess

kurtosis will not always be made: whenever kurtosis is mentioned in the remain parts of this

paper, strictly speaking the excess kurtosis is meant.

In this subsection the growth of rough surfaces will be reviewed. First, three different types

or modes of surface growth will be introduced. Subsequently, the focus will be contrained to

a particular type of surface growth: the growth of self-affine rough surfaces. Using second

order statistics, which is formally captured by a height-height correlation function (HHCF),

the mathematical characteristics of these self-affine surfaces will be derived. Finally, by

inducing time dependence in the HHCF, the growth behaviour of self-affine surfaces will be

described.

Rough surfaces, or more specifically thin films, can generally grow in three different ways.

The first growth type is the so called layer by layer growth, which is also known as Frank van

der Merwe growth. This type of growth results in relatively smooth surfaces, since different

mono-layers are formed on top of each other. The second growth type is unstable growth (or

Volmer-Weber growth). If this growth behaviour occurs, small mounds are usually formed,

causing the growth to be unstable. The third and final general growth type is self-affine

or Stransky-Karastanov growth, which essentially refers to a combination of the two growth

modes mentioned above. In case of self-affine growth the amount of roughness grows with

time and/or the length scale of observation.

A self-affine rough surface is as a surface that remains statically invariant (unchanged) under a

self-affine transformation. A self-affine transformation is defined as a dilatation with different

2. Mathematical Description of Rough Surfaces 4

recovers its initial form, i.e. the form it possessed before the transformation. For a self-affine

rough surface, the random height variable h(x) is forced to obey the constraint:

This equation mathematically formalises the statement that a self-affine surface is scale invari-

ant under the effect of re-scaling the height variable h(x) by a factor (that is h h)

and shrinking the x-axis according to x x/.

Now that the concept of a self-affine surface is introduced, its second order statistics can be

discussed. The second order statistics is generically described by a height-height correlation

function (HHCF), denoted as:

with f (r/) a scaling function depending on the described system: in this case a self-affine

surface. The quantity is called the lateral correlation length and serves, in addition to the

RMS roughness amplitude w, as an important parameter to characterise a rough surface.

Note that, by assumption of in-plane rotational invariance, the position vector r is replaced

by its magnitude r |r| in the HHCF. Intuitively, the HHCF H(r) may be considered as

a measure for the probability that the random height value at r is the same as the random

height value at r 0. The location on the surface corresponding to r 0 is arbitrary. For

self-affine rough surfaces, the small and large scale behavior of the HHCF is given by:

(

x2 x 1

f (x) = , (9)

1 x1

where is know as the Hurst or roughness exponent, x r/ and is the in-plane lateral

correlation length mentioned above. The Hurst exponent can take values in the range 0

1 and is a measure for the amount of height-variation on small scales (length scales smaller

than the lateral correlation length ). By construction, -values close to zero correspond to

large height-variation on small scales and -values close to one indicate small height-variation

on small scales. Using the above scaling function f (x), the asymptotic behaviour of H(r)

can be written as: (

mr2 x 1

H(r) = , (10)

2w2 x1

Using the HHCF, the growth of self-affine rough surfaces can now be described in a mathe-

matical way. Since the self-affine growth is (obviously) related to the time evolution of the

self-affine surfaces, it is evident that time dependence should be induced in the HHCF for it

to govern growth effects. In particular, the time dependence is assumed to manifest in the

5

RMS roughness amplitude w and the lateral correlation length by means of power laws in

time:

w = w(t) t and = (t) t1/z , (11)

where is called the growth exponent and z is the dynamic exponent. Including the time-

dependence in w and , the HHCF becomes:

(

r2 t22/z r (t)

H(r, t) 2 . (13)

t r (t)

Now, so-called dynamical scaling hypothesis requires the dynamic exponent z to be related to

and via z = /. When this condition is satisfied, the time-exponent of H(r, t) becomes

zero at small scales r (t). To see this explicitly, plug the dynamical scaling condition

z = / into the time exponent:

Hence, in case of dynamical scaling the time dependence drops out of the small scale expres-

sion for the HHCF. Growth behaviour obeying the dynamical scaling hypothesis is referred

to as stationary growth, whereas dynamical scaling breakdown (z 6= /) is called non-

stationary growth.

3 Experimental Approach

In the performed experiment thin gold films of thicknesses ranging from 100 to 1000 nm are

analysed using aSPM scanning probe microscope. During all data-acquisitions (gaining the

SPM images), the resolution of the SPM is set to 512 points per line scan. Subsequently,

the selected SPM images see section 4.1 for the selection criteria are analysed using the

computer software Gwyddion [1]. Using Gwyddion, all characterising parameters (e.g. w,

and ) could be obtained from the SPM images.

Since it is assumed that the thickness of the samples grows linearly over time (d t), the

samples of different thicknesses may equivalently be considered as the same thin gold film,

but at different times in its growth evolution. To this end, the analysis on the time-evolution

of the HHCF performed in the previous section can be applied to the empirical data by

replacing t by d.

4 Results

4.1 Selected Samples

SPM images of size 0.5 um 0.5 um are taken multiple times for the different sample thick-

nesses. However, the used samples were damaged at some places due to scratches. For that

reason, only SPM images showing a smooth patch of the samples are taken into consideration.

From these images, a further selection is made based on the visibility of the grains. In some

4. Results 6

(d) 700 nm

Figure 1: Selected SPM images of gold for analysis (thicknesses 100, 400 and 1000

nm). In subfigure (d) the SPM image of the 700 nm sample is shown. Observe

that the structure of the sample is indeed different from the samples shown in (a),

(b) and (c).

cases, SPM images of smooth sample patches were obtained, but the visibility of the grains

was rather low. Based on this selection criteria, the analysed SPM images are chosen. Before

the analysis, the SPM images are adjusted and corrected. In particular, the minimum height

value is set to zero in each sample. The images are corrected using the Align Rows option in

Gwyddion.1

The selected images are shown in Fig. 1. It should be noted that the initial plan was

to analyse images of a 700 nm thickness sample as well. Unfortunately, it seems that the

analysed sample was accidentally taken from a second set of gold samples that was not aimed

for this experiment. This presumption is based on the fact that the observed structure in the

700 nm SPM image is completely different from the SPM images of the other thicknesses.

For comparison, a SPM image of the 700 nm sample is also shown in Fig. 1 (d). Observe that

for this sample the size of the faces surrounded by grains is significantly bigger compared to

the samples shown in subfigures (a) to (c). Furthermore, the height variation is bigger as can

be seen from the gradient scale to right to the image. For these reasons, the 700 nm sample

is excluded from the analysis described below.

For the analysed images, the height distribution function (h) is determined using the 1D

Statistical Functions tool in Gwyddion. In the left panel of Fig. 2, the height distribution

1

This is a basic correction algorithm that includes different techniques, the details can be found in Ref.

[1].

7

0.5 0.5

0.4 0.4

0.3 0.3

(nm-1 )

(nm-1 )

100 nm

0.2 0.2 400 nm

1000 nm

0.1 0.1

0.0 0.0

-4 -2 0 2 4 -4 -2 0 2 4

h (nm) h (nm)

Figure 2: Left: Measured height distribution function for 100 nm sample (rep-

resented by red dots) and Gaussian PDF fitted by Gwyddion (blue) with RMS

roughness amplitude w = 0.92 0.15 nm. The data is normalised to the peak

value of the fitted Gaussian. Right: fitted Gaussian PDFs (h) for the different

thicknesses (100, 400 and 1000 nm). The fitted values for w are given in Tab. 1.

function data obtained by Gwyddion is shown using the red dots. It should be noted that

the number of data points is somewhat low, certainly when compared to typical height dis-

tribution functions obtained by others using the same setup and samples. Nevertheless, the

obtained data fits the Gaussian PDF reasonably well, as shown by the blue solid line. The

fitted Gaussian is solely based RMS roughness amplitude w, since the height value of the

peak is set to zero hp 0. The fitting value for w is obtained via the Statistical Quantities

tool. Similarly, this is done for the 400 and 1000 nm images. The right panel in Fig. 2 shows

the fitted Guassian distributions for all thicknesses.

Besides the RMS roughness amplitude w, the full-width-at-half-maximum FWHM and

the skewness 3 and (excess) kurtosis 4 are also obtained for all analysed thicknesses. To

compute the FWHM from the RMS roughness amplitude, a Gaussian distribution function

is assumed:

FWHM = 2 2 ln 2 w. (15)

The values for the roughness amplitude w, FWHM, skewness 3 and kurtosis 4 are presented

in Tab. 1. For a height distribution function to be a Gaussian distribution, both the skewness

and kurtosis should satisfy the constraints that they are close to zero. This condition is met

to reasonable extent for all obtained values of 3 and 4 . The only value that deviates

considerably from zero is the skewness value for thickness d = 100 nm. Hence, it may

be concluded that the height distribution function for the analysed samples is fairly well

described by a Gaussian distribution.

100 0.92 0.15 2.18 0.35 0.437 0.0917

400 1.11 0.16 2.62 0.37 0.0408 0.0898

1000 1.22 0.18 2.87 0.42 0.0110 0.257

The data presented in this table will be referred to as the HD method, since it is

obtained via the measured height distributions.

4. Results 8

2.0 3.0

2.5

1.5

2.0

H (nm2 )

H (nm2 )

1.0 1.5

100 nm

400 nm

1.0 1000 nm

0.5

0.5

0.0 0.0

20 40 60 80 100 120 140 20 40 60 80 100 120 140

r (nm) r (nm)

Figure 3: Left: measured HHCF (blue dashed) and fit (Eq. 16) (black) for a

thickness of 100 nm. Right: measured HHCFs for all analyzed sample thicknesses.

The height-height correlation functions (HHCFs) are obtained for the different thicknesses,

again using the 1D Statistical Functions tool in Gwyddion. The obtained HHCFs are shown

in the right panel of Fig. 3. From these data, the Hurst or roughness exponent , lateral

correlation length are obtained. Furthermore, the large scale behaviour (r/ 1) of

the HHCF also provides a second independent approach to determine the RMS roughness

amplitude w. The HHCFs are analysed via two approaches. In the first, Gwyddion fits a

Gaussian HHCF to the data, from which and w can be determined. This approach will

be referred to as the HHCF Fit method. The second approach employs the short and large

range behaviour of the HHCF to determine and in the so-called slope method (SM).

Using the Graph Fitting Tool in Gwyddion, a Gaussian HHCF fit is made to the obtained

HHCFs. The Gaussian HHCF fit, denoted below as fHHCF (r), is part of Gwyddions

standard fitting function library and has the form:

h 2

i

fHHCF (r) = 2w2 1 e(r/) , (16)

where w is the RMS roughness amplitude and is the lateral correlation length. For the

HHCF corresponding to the sample of 100 nm thickness, the HHCF data and the fit fHHCF (r)

are shown in the left panel of Fig. 3.

Similarly, the fits are also performed for 400 and 1000 nm thickness. The fitted values and

corresponding errors, which are automatically calculated by the Gwyddion fitting algorithm,

are tabulated in Tab. 2 for all thicknesses. The obtained values for the roughness amplitude

w are in reasonable agreement with values obtained via the HD method (see Tab. 1).

Contrary to the roughness amplitude w, the fitted values for the lateral correlation length

should be regarded with caution. As can be seen from the left panel of Fig. 3, the r-

value of the transition point from an increasing HHCF to a flat HHCF is systematically

underestimated by the fit (black solid) as compared with the data (blue dashed). To be more

specific, the HHCF fit gives = 12.0 0.3 nm, whereas the data suggests that the transition

point lies somewhere around ' 25 nm.

9

0.25

2 low 2 high 0.4

0.20

0.3

log H (nm2 )

log H (nm2 )

0.15

100 nm

0.2

0.10 400 nm

1000 nm

0.05 0.1

log rk

0.00 0.0

1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2 1.4 1.6

log r (nm) log r (nm)

Figure 4: Close up of the HHCF at small scales (log r . 1.6). Left: Visualisation

of the slope method. Note the presence of the two linear portions with slopes 2low

and 2high . Right: Close up of the HHCFs at small scales for all thicknesses.

Slope Method

The slope method conveniently employs the advantage of plotting the data logarithmically.

That is, the datasets are analysed in the form (log H(r), log r), instead of (H(r), r). In this

way, the small and large scale behaviour of the HHCF becomes:

(

2 log r + log m r/ 1

log H(r) = . (17)

log 2w2 r/ 1

This explicitly shows the advantage of using the logarithmic representation of the data:

plotting log H(r) as a function of log r will yield a straight line with slope 2 in the small

scale regime r/ 1.

To find these slopes and hence the value of , the data is transformed to the logarithmic

form and plotted for the small scale regime in Fig. 4. The right panel shows the data for all

thicknesses. The left panel shows only the data for 100 nm thickness. Furthermore, this panel

serves as a visual clarification for the discussion below. In fact, it is observed that, in the

logarithmic representation, the linearly growing part of the HHCF can be divided into two

portions, referred to as the low and high parts. These two portions have a slightly different

slope, denoted by 2low and 2high , respectively (see the left panel of Fig. 4). The transition

point between the two linear portions is denoted with log rk . The invoked terminology of

the high and low linear portions is based on this transition point log rk : the low and high

portions lie to the left and right of this value, respectively.

100 0.914 0.003 12.0 0.3

400 1.049 0.003 12.3 0.3

1000 1.172 0.002 12.7 0.3

Table 2: HHCF fit parameters (Eq. 16) for all sample thicknesses. Note that

the roughness parameter w is in reasonable agreement with values obtained via

the HD method. The fitted values for the lateral correlation length should

be regarded with caution, since they are systematically and significantly lower

compared to the values obtained via the SM approach.

4. Results 10

Lastly, the value for the lateral correlation length (or rather log ) is determined from the

intersection of the linear fit with slope high and the horizontal line log 2w2 . The log r value

at which the intersection occurs is identified with log . The used values for w to determine

the horizontal line log 2w2 are the ones obtained via the HHCF Fit and tabulated in Tab. 2.

The determined values for the Hurst exponents in the low and high portion (low and high ),

the transition point log rk and the lateral correlation length log are given in Tab. 3.

The errors are also provided in this table and are determined for the different quantities as

follows. The errors in the Hurst exponents low and high are calculated automatically by the

used fitting software (gnuplot). Since the values for log rk and log are obtained graphically,

the errors have been estimated manually and are not computed using an automised algorithm.

The errors in and log 2w2 are calculated using the known errors in log and w, respectively.

As can be seen from the right panels in Fig. 3 and Fig. 4, for r . 20 nm (corresponding

to log r . 1.3) the HHCFs have approximately the same slope. This statement is true to

high degree for the studied samples of 100 and 1000 nm, but less so for the 400 nm sample.

Therefore, it is justified to consider the average Hurst exponents over all thicknesses. The

averages will be denoted as hii , where the subscript i = {low, high, total} refers to the

averages of the low, the high and the total (low plus high) Hurst exponents. Including all

analysed thicknesses, the following averages are obtained:

hihigh = 0.248 0.012,

hitotal = 0.278 0.011. (18)

Excluding the 400 nm case, since its slope differs reasonably from the 100 and 1000 nm cases,

the averages become:

hihigh = 0.288 0.011,

hitotal = 0.316 0.010. (19)

The above values (Eq. 19, excluding 400 nm thickness) are in approximate agreement with

previous work on the roughness and growth characteristics of gold by R.C. Salvarezza and

collaborators [2]. They find that, in the high linear portion, the value high is constrained

by:

0.32 0.03 < high < 0.39 0.01, (20)

using gold samples of thicknesses 30, 170, 500 and 850 nm. The transition point log rk is found

to be 1.5, independent of sample thickness, compared to our obtained value of log rk ' 1.25.

d (nm) low high log rk (nm) log (nm) (nm) log 2w2 (nm)

100 0.356 0.009 0.323 0.012 1.23 0.02 1.405 0.006 25 1 0.223 0.002

400 0.237 0.011 0.167 0.014 1.27 0.01 1.541 0.007 34 1 0.343 0.002

1000 0.330 0.010 0.253 0.009 1.30 0.02 1.602 0.006 40 1 0.438 0.003

Table 3: Obtained values for the Hurst exponents in the low and high portion

(low and high ), the transition point log rk and the lateral correlation length

log . The origin of the stated errors is explained in the text.

11

0.10 0.10

0.08 0.08

0.06 0.06

0.04 0.04

log w (nm)

log w (nm)

0.02 0.02

0.00 0.00

-0.02 -0.02

-0.04 -0.04

1.8 2.0 2.2 2.4 2.6 2.8 3.0 3.2 1.8 2.0 2.2 2.4 2.6 2.8 3.0 3.2

log d (nm) log d (nm)

Figure 5: Determination of the growth exponent . Left: Linear fit (blue solid)

based on HHCF Method data (red dots). Right: Linear fit based on HD Method

data.

Unfortunately, this constraint is quite different from our values obtained for low .

Now that all required data is presented, the growth parameters and z can be determined.

Since the sample thichness grows linear with time (d t), the RMS roughness amplitude w

and lateral correlation length scale with the thickness d as:

w d d1/z . (22)

To determine the exponent , the RMS roughness amplitudes corresponding to the different

thicknesses are plotted logarithmically and the slope (which equals ) is extracted. Since

two sets of w-values are obtained via the HHCF Fit method and the HD method, two slopes

could be determined from the data. The linear fits (in the logarithmic representation of the

data) give:

log w = 0.1070 log d + 1.009 (HHCF Fit Method) (23)

For both methods, the data (red dots) and fits (solid blue lines) are presented in Fig. 5,

the left panel and right panel corresponding to the HHCF Fit and HD method, respectively.

The fitted values for are also presented in Tab. 4, including the errors which are again

determined automatically by the fitting software.

The growth exponent z related to the time evolution of the lateral correlation length is

extracted from the (d, ) data obtained via the Slope Method (SM), see Tab. 3. Based on the

fact that the HHCF Fit Method systematically underestimates the lateral correlation length

for all thicknesses, this data is disregarded (as indicated in Tab. 4). The linear fit that is

found is given by:

5. Discussion and Suggestions for Further Studies 12

1.65

1.60

1.55

log (nm)

1.50

1.45

1.40

1.35

1.8 2.0 2.2 2.4 2.6 2.8 3.0 3.2

log d (nm)

Figure 6: Linear fit through (d, ) data obtained via the Slope Method (SM). The

slope of the fit equals 1/z. Note that a fit on the values for obtained via the

HHCF Fit Method is not performed, since the HHCF Fit Method systematically

underestimates the lateral correlation length, as discussed in the text.

where the slope 0.2001 equals 1/z. The data and linear fit are also shown in Fig. 6. The

obtained values for 1/z and z including their errors are given in Tab. 4. The last column is

table shows the ratio of hitotal = 0.278 0.011 (including 100, 400 and 1000 nm data) and

the determined -values via the HHCF Fit Method and the HD Method. It should be noted

that this ratio differs from the value for z determined via the Slope Method by approximately

a factor of two. Therefore, based on the data presented in Tab. 4 it can be concluded that

the dynamical scaling condition is not satisfied, since according to the data z 6= hitotal /.

In other words, the gold samples obey non-stationary growth.

It is worthwhile to mention that the non-stationary growth behaviour also manifests in

the HHCF Fits given by Eq. 16 and tabulated in Tab. 2, although the lateral correlation

length determined by this fit is systematically underestimated. The HHCF fits are plotted for

all thicknesses in Fig. 7. The non-stationary growth is visible in the plot since in the small

scale regime r/ 1, the curves corresponding to the different thicknesses do not overlap.

For stationary growth, i.e. for dynamical scaling, overlap of the different curves at small

scales is a requirement [3]. Based on the fact that this is not the case, one concludes that the

gold samples show non-stationary growth.

In relation to the performed experiment and the obtained results, the following comments

on possible future extensions and improvement are in order. First and arguably most im-

portant, to confirm the validity of the results presented in this work, the experiment should

HHCF Fits Disregarded 0.1070 0.004 2.59 0.14

SM 0.2001 0.005 4.99 0.01

HD 0.1209 0.006 2.29 0.16

Table 4: Obtained values for the growth parameters and z. The last column

gives the ratio for /, which must equal z for the dynamical scaling condition

to be satisfied, this is clearly not the case. The average value used for is

hitotal = 0.278 0.011 as obtained taking all thicknesses into account.

13

0.50

H (nm2 )

100 nm

0.10 400 nm

0.05 1000 nm

0.01

1 5 10 50 100

r (nm)

condition by means of the HHCF Fits according to Eq. 16. For dynamical scaling

or stationary growth, the curves should overlap at small scales r/ 1. However,

as shown this is not the case and the growth is concluded to be non-stationary.

be repeated in which the analysis of a correct 400 nm gold sample is included. Furthermore,

the experiment could be extended by considering more gold samples of various thicknesses

or other type of samples (e.g. silver (Ag) or silicon (Si)).

It should also be mentioned that in the current experiment, only one SPM image for

each thickness was analysed. However, the statistical accuracy of the results would increase

if multiple scans of the same (part of a) sample would be combined. Furthermore, such an

approach would also give a more conclusive answer to the question whether the obtained

values for the higher order moments of the height distribution (3,4 ) are indeed in line with

a Gaussian distribution. Currently, this conclusion is made based on values extracted from

only three SPM images (one for each analysed thickness). In fact, the skewness 3 of the

100 nm image is 0.437 (see Tab. 1), which deviates rather significantly from the Gaussian

value (3 = 0). Combining multiple scans would allow to determine whether this deviation

is accidental or systematic.

Then, there are some aspects about the analysis of the HHCF to be mentioned. The first

point is related to the determination of the lateral correlation via the HHCF Fit. Compared

to the -values obtained via the Slope Method (SM), the values from the HHCF Fit are found

to be systematically lower for all thicknesses. Using the multiple scans approach mentioned

in the previous paragraph, it could be examined whether this apparent underestimation is

indeed a shortcoming of the applied fit (Eq. 16) as suggested in Section 4.3 or that the

underestimation is only characteristic for the particular SPM images used in this work.

Secondly, it was found that the linear rise of the HHCF at small scales could be subdivided

into two regimes, called the low and high portion, with different values for the Hurst exponent

(hilow and hihigh ). As stated in the Results, the high portion Hurst exponent hihigh agrees

fairly well with values stated in literature. However, this is not the case for hilow . This

discrepancy could be subject of study in future extensions to this experiment. Also, the

-values obtained for 400 nm thickness seem to deviate from the general trend in the 100 and

1000 nm cases. In future experiments this apparent deviation could be resolved or examined

in more detail. Lastly, let us mention that from are more fundamental and theoretical

perspective the physical origin of the division into two linear portions could be studied.

Lastly, the experiment described in this work could be repeated under a variety of different

conditions. For instance, one could construct this experiment, but cool or heat the gold

samples and examine the effect of temperature on the surface growth behaviour.

6. Conclusion 14

6 Conclusion

This work describes the empirical determination of the roughness and growth characteristics

of gold samples by means of Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM). It is found that gold surfaces

can be described fairly well by a Gaussian height probability density function (h) (PDF)

and the RMS roughness amplitude w, since the 3-th and 4-th order moments 3 and 4

(skewness and kurtosis) determined from the measured height distributions are reasonably

close to the values corresponding to a Gaussian distribution. In addition, the second order

statistics as governed by the height-height correlation function (HHCF) is also examined.

The corresponding lateral correlation length is determined, as well as the surfaces Hurst

exponent , which measures the amount of height-variation on small scales. It was found

that in fact two Hurst exponents can be identified, consistent with literature [2]. However,

the obtained values for only partially agree with the values provided in literature. Finally,

the growth exponents z and are obtained. It is found that the dynamical scaling condition

z = / is not fulfilled and hence it can be concluded that the gold samples show non-

stationary growth behaviour.

Bibliography

[1] P. Klapetek, D. Necas, and C. Anderson, Gwyddion user guide, Czech Metrology Insti-

tute, vol. 2007, p. 2009, 2004.

[2] L. Vazquez, R. Salvarezza, P. Herrasti, P. Ocon, J. Vara, and A. Arvia, Stm study of

fractal scaling in evaporated gold films, Applied surface science, vol. 70, pp. 413417,

1993.

[3] Unkown, Manual: Scanning probe microscopy, RUG Phys. Lab. 3 Course Material,

2015.

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