The growth of multi-layer germanium-tin (GeSn) quantum wells offers an intriguing pathway towards the integration of lasers in a CMOS platform. An important step in growing high quality quantum well interfaces is the formation of an initial wetting layer. However, key atomic-scale details of this process have not previously been discussed. We use scanning tunneling microscopy combined with density functional theory to study the deposition of Sn on Ge(1 0 0) at room temperature over a coverage range of 0.01 to 1.24 monolayers. We demonstrate the formation of a sub-2% Ge content GeSn wetting layer from three atomic-scale characteristic ad-dimer structural components, and show that small quantities of Sn incorporate into the Ge surface forming two atomic configurations. The ratio of the ad-dimer structures changes with increasing Sn coverage, indicating a change in growth kinetics. At sub-monolayer coverage, the least densely packing ad-dimer structure is most abundant. As the layer closes, forming a two-dimensional wetting layer, the more densely packing ad-dimer structure become dominant. These results demonstrate the capability to form an atomically smooth wetting layer at room temperature, and provide critical atomic-scale insights for the optimization of growth processes of GeSn multi-quantum-wells to meet the quality requirements of optical GeSn-based devices.
Hofmann, E.V.S., Scalise, E., Montalenti, F., Stock, T.J.Z., Schofield, S.R., Capellini, G., et al. (2021). The formation of a Sn monolayer on Ge(1 0 0) studied at the atomic scale. APPLIED SURFACE SCIENCE, 561, 149961 [10.1016/j.apsusc.2021.149961].