High-resolution SEM images of germanium nanocrystals (Ge-nc) synthesized by ion implantation in fused silica samples annealed at temperatures below and above the melting point of Ge show a strong size-selective depth-distribution of nanostructures, as evidenced by the correlation between the dimension of the observed objects and the local concentration of implanted Ge measured by Rutherford backscattering spectroscopy (RBS). Whereas the Ge-nc nucleation seems to obey the Ostwald ripening process in samples annealed below 900°C, Ge desorption effects, non-uniform in depth, in conjunction with the formation of large and spherical nanocavities, become dominant for annealing performed above the solidliquid phase transition of Ge. Measurements for different annealing times at 1050°C show two distinct processes in the Ge desorption dynamics: the first is related to direct Ge outgassing effects during the nucleation of Ge-nc, which occurs within the first minutes of the thermal annealing, while the second is due to the release of Ge from Ge-nc, associated with the formation of nanocavities. The formation rate of these nanocavities is more efficient at greater depth than in the vicinity of the sample surface. It appears to be strongly dependent on the local concentration of defects, responsible for the reduction of the Ge diffusion, and to be related to the breaking of GeO and SiGe bonds at the Ge-nc/SiO interface. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.
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