We report the first HRXTEM study of epitaxial rare earth fluoride/ GaAs(111) interfaces. Such interfaces are of interest because they are the starting point for growth of buried epitaxial rare earth / rare earth fluoride sandwich structures which exhibit interesting and non bulk-like magnetic properties. Also, the optical transitions in ultrathin epitaxial NdF3 films may be influenced by strain and defects in the NdF3 film and the nature of the interface to GaAs.
We find that the rare earth fluoride / GaAs interfaces are semi- coherent but chemically abrupt with the transition taking place within 3Å. However, the interface is physically rough and multiple monolayer steps in the GaAs surface tend to lead to tilt boundaries in the fluoride. The origin of these steps is believed to be thermal etching of the GaAs during the heat-cleaning stage prior to epitaxy. The surface of the fluoride film is much smoother than the initial GaAs surface indicating planarization during epitaxy.