Three-Dimensional Atomic Structure of Metastable Nanoclusters in Doped Semiconductors
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Aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy is used to determine the atomic structure of nanoclusters of cerium dopant atoms embedded in silicon. By channeling electrons along two crystallographic orientations, we identify a characteristic zinc-blende chemical ordering within CeSi clusters coherent with the silicon host matrix. Strain energy limits the size of these ordered arrangements to just above 1 nm. With the local order identified, we then determine the atomic configuration of an individual subnanometer cluster by quantifying the scattering intensity under weak channeling condition in terms of the number of atoms. Analysis based on single-atom visualization also evidences the presence of split-vacancy impurity complexes, which supports the hypothesis of a vacancy-assisted formation of these metastable CeSi nanophases.
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