Thermal dynamics of silver clusters grown on rippled silica surfaces

Silver nanoparticles have been deposited on silicon rippled patterned templates at an angle of incidence of 70° to the surface normal. The templates are produced by oblique incidence argon ion bombardment and as the fluence increases, the periods and heights of the structures increase. Structures with periods of 20 nm, 35 nm and 45 nm have been produced. Moderate temperature vacuum annealing shows the phenomenon of cluster coalescence following the contour of the more exposed faces of the ripple for the case of 35 nm and 45 nm but not at 20 nm where the silver aggregates into larger randomly distributed clusters. In order to understand this effect, the morphological changes of silver nanoparticles deposited on an asymmetric rippled silica surface are investigated through the use of molecular dynamics simulations for different deposition angles of incidence between 0° and 70° and annealing temperatures between 500 K and 900 K. Near to normal incidence, clusters are observed to migrate over the entire surface but for deposition at 70°, a similar patterning is observed as in the experiment. The random distribution of clusters for the periodicity of 20 nm is linked to the geometry of the silica surface which has a lower ripple height than the longer wavelength structures. Calculations carried out on a surface with such a lower ripple height also demonstrate a similar effect.