High-resolution investigation of metal nanoparticle growth on an insulating surface
The three-dimensional nanoparticle morphology and the nanoparticle-substrate relationship during the submonolayer growth of three metals (gold, tantalum, and palladium) on the alkali halide KBr (001) surface is investigated by combining in situ high-resolution noncontact atomic force microscopy and ex situ transmission electron microscopy approaches. Highly varied growth behavior between the metals is revealed. Gold produces nearly spherical multiply twinned nanoparticles at room temperature and an increasing number of epitaxial particles at elevated temperatures. In contrast, the tantalum grows as relatively flat fractal particles, despite the square symmetry of the substrate lattice, a condition which normally precludes fractal growth. The tantalum also exhibits a strong affinity for KBr surface steps, leading to one-dimensional chains of nanoparticles. The deposition of palladium results in the creation of protruding substrate distortions and monolayer-high rectangular KBr islands in addition to the growth of palladium nanoparticles. It is hypothesized that the unusual growth observed in the palladium-KBr system is caused by the interdiffusion of palladium under the KBr surface. The range of growth behavior in the three systems is described in terms of the surface and interface energies, yielding bounds on the metal/KBr interface energies.