Dislocations1 are line defects that bound plastically deformed regions in crystalline solids. Dislocations terminating on the surface of materials can strongly influence nanostructural and interfacial stability, mechanical properties, chemical reactions, transport phenomena, and other surface processes. While most theoretical and experimental studies have focused on dislocation motion in bulk solids under applied stress2,3 and step formation due to dislocations at surfaces during crystal growth4,5,6,7, very little is known about the effects of dislocations on surface dynamics and morphological evolution. Here we investigate the near-equilibrium dynamics of surface-terminated dislocations using low-energy electron microscopy8. We observe, in real time, the thermally driven nucleation and shape-preserving growth of spiral steps rotating at constant temperature-dependent angular velocities around cores of dislocations terminating on the (111) surface of TiN in the absence of applied external stress or net mass change. We attribute this phenomenon to point-defect migration from the bulk to the surface along dislocation lines. Our results demonstrate that dislocation-mediated surface roughening can occur even in the absence of deposition or evaporation, and provide fundamental insights into mechanisms controlling nanostructural stability.
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This work was supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Division of Materials Science, through the University of Illinois Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory (FS-MRL). We thank C. P. Flynn, H. Birnbaum, R. J. Pflueger and P. O. Å. Persson for discussions and critical reading of the manuscript. We also appreciate the use of the facilities in the Center for Microanalysis of Materials, partially supported by DOE, at the FS-MRL.
The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.
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Kodambaka, S., Khare, S., Święch, W. et al. Dislocation-driven surface dynamics on solids. Nature 429, 49–52 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02495