A density functional study of silver clusters on a stepped graphite surface: formation of self-assembled nano-wires†
Adsorption and diffusion of silver adatoms and clusters containing up to eight atoms on an HOPG substrate with an armchair step are studied using density functional methods. Step edges act as attractive sinks for adatoms and clusters. The diffusion barrier of an Ag adatom along the step edge is much larger than that on a clean terrace. At zero temperature, Ag clusters either distort or dissociate by forming covalent bonds with the edge C atoms. At 600 K, Ag5 and Ag8 clusters diffuse to the step edges, and then break up so as to maximize Ag–C bonds. The Ag atoms try to form a nanowire structure along the step edge. At such high temperatures, diffusion of clusters along the step edge involves diffusion of individual Ag atoms not bonded to the edge C atoms. Assumption of complete immobility of clusters trapped at step edges in the Gates–Robins model is not valid at high temperatures in this particular system.