Nano-crystal formation and growth from high-fluence ion implantation of Au, Ag or Cu in silica
The linear and non-linear optical properties of silica may be tailored by the introduction of a random distribution of nanocrystallites of an immiscible metal within a near-surface region. The size, size distribution, and spatial distribution of these crystallites must be controllable in order to optimize the functional properties for device applications. In this paper, we present a novel fabrication technique that offers such control. Energetic metal ions are implanted in silica at room temperature. Subsequent heat treatment leads to diffusion of the implanted atoms, nucleation and growth of metal crystallites, and Ostwald ripening of the resulting clusters. We have observed the kinetics and effective activation energies describing the multiple processes involved, for the cases of Au, Ag or Cu implanted at MeV energies, at various fluences, and then annealed at fixed temperatures in the range 500°C-1000°C. Effective activation energies found for nanocrystal nucleation and growth at temperatures below 800°C (e.g. 64 meV for Ag) are replaced above this temperature range by much higher activation energies (e.g. 400 meV for Ag). We may attribute this to the depletion of un-attached mobile metal atoms (so that ripening of clusters will be limited by energy barriers for escape of such mobile atoms from small crystallites), and/or the annealing of implantcaused stress in the silica structure at high temperatures, that creates new channels for thermal diffusion of metal atoms within the silica host.