Electric-field-controlled reversible order-disorder switching of a metal tip surface
Journal article, 2018

While it is well established that elevated temperatures can induce surface roughening of metal surfaces, the effect of a high electric field on the atomic structure at ambient temperature has not been investigated in detail. Here we show with atomic resolution using in situ transmission electron microscopy how intense electric fields induce reversible switching between perfect crystalline and disordered phases of gold surfaces at room temperature. Ab initio molecular dynamics simulations reveal that the mechanism behind the structural change can be attributed to a vanishing energy cost in forming surface defects in high electric fields. Our results demonstrate how surface processes can be directly controlled at the atomic scale by an externally applied electric field, which promotes an effective decoupling of the topmost surface layers from the underlying bulk. This opens up opportunities for development of active nanodevices in, e.g., nanophotonics and field-effect transistor technology as well as fundamental research in materials characterization and of yet unexplored dynamically controlled low-dimensional phases of matter.


Ludvig De Knoop

Chalmers, Physics, Eva Olsson Group

Mikael Juhani Kuisma

Chalmers, Physics, Materials and Surface Theory

University of Jyväskylä

Joakim Löfgren

Chalmers, Physics, Materials and Surface Theory

Kristof Lodewijks

Chalmers, Physics, Bionanophotonics

Mattias Thuvander

Chalmers, Physics, Materials Microstructure

Paul Erhart

Chalmers, Physics, Materials and Surface Theory

Alexander Dmitriev

University of Gothenburg

Stanford University

Eva Olsson

Chalmers, Physics, Eva Olsson Group

Physical Review Materials

24759953 (eISSN)

Vol. 2 8 085006

Enabling Science and Technology through European Electron Microscopy (ESTEEM 2)

European Commission (EC) (EC/FP7/312483), 2012-10-01 -- 2016-09-30.

Areas of Advance

Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Subject Categories

Physical Chemistry

Materials Chemistry

Condensed Matter Physics


Chalmers Materials Analysis Laboratory



More information

Latest update