Molecular beam epitaxial growth of Ge on Si(110) surfaces reveals interesting aspects of the heterogeneous nucleation of coherent Ge islands. Cleaning of the Si substrate by desorption of a passivating oxide layer at high temperature creates surface pits. Two sets of experiments, including deposition of Ge on as-cleaned substrates, and surfaces with a thin Si buffer layer are compared to illustrate the nucleation behavior of Ge. Typical Ge deposition temperatures range from 600°C to 725°C.
For Ge deposition on as-cleaned surfaces, the faceted edges of pits serve as preferential sites for the heterogeneous nucleation of coherent Ge islands. Experiments were also performed on surfaces with thin (˜20nm) Si buffer layers grown on the as-cleaned surface. Though the faceted pits have not been completely covered by the Si buffer layer, they have decreased in lateral size. In addition, the Si(110) surface shows ledges that are formed along specific crystallographic directions. Ge deposited on the Si buffer nucleates first at the corners of the pits, in an interesting dipole orientation, as well as along the ledges on the surface.