Physical Review Letters

Periodically changing morphology of the growth interface in Si, Ge, and GaP nanowires

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Nanowire growth in the standard 111 direction is assumed to occur at a planar catalyst-nanowire interface, but recent reports contradict this picture. Here we show that a nonplanar growth interface is, in fact, a general phenomenon. Both III-V and group IV nanowires show a distinct region at the trijunction with a different orientation whose size oscillates during growth, synchronized with step flow. We develop an explicit model for this structure that agrees well with experiment and shows that the oscillations provide a direct visualization of catalyst supersaturation. We discuss the implications for wire growth and structure. © 2011 American Physical Society.