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Modelling the onset of oxide formation on metal surfaces from first principles

: Colombi Ciacchi, L.


International journal of materials research 98 (2007), No.8, pp.708-716
ISSN: 1862-5282
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IWM ()
low temperature oxidation; density functional theory; Molecular dynamics; bare metal surface

The formation of ultrathin oxide layers on metal surfaces is a non-thermally-activated process which takes place spontaneously at very low temperatures within nanoseconds. This paper reports mechanistic details of the initial oxidation of bare metal surfaces, in particular Al(111) and TiN(001), as obtained by means of first-principles molecular dynamics modelling within the Density-Functional Theory. It is shown that the reactions of bare metal surfaces with O-2 molecules take place according to a "hot-atom" dissociative mechanism which is triggered by the filling of the sigma* antibonding molecular orbital and is characterised by a sudden release of a large amount of kinetic energy. This released energy provides a driving force for metal/oxygen place-exchange processes which are responsible for the onset of oxide formation at virtually 0 K and at oxygen coverages well below I monolayer (NIL). Further simulations of the oxidation reactions reveal that a disordered ultrathin oxide forms on Al(111), whereas a rather ordered structure develops on TiN(001) following a selective oxidation process which leaves clusters of Ti vacancies in the TiN lattice underneath the oxide layer.