A hybrid off-lattice kinetic Monte Carlo/molecular dynamics method for amorphous thin film growth

S Ntioudis and JP Ewen and D Dini and CH Turner, COMPUTATIONAL MATERIALS SCIENCE, 229, 112421 (2023).

DOI: 10.1016/j.commatsci.2023.112421

The ability to understand and model the growth of amorphous thin films on solid surfaces is essential to a wide range of industrial applications, from the deposition of wear-resistant coatings to the production of solar cells. Here, a three-dimensional (3D) hybrid off- lattice kinetic Monte Carlo/molecular dynamics (kMC/MD) algorithm is developed to study the growth of thin amorphous films on solid substrates with atomistic resolution over timescales of tens of seconds. We use this method to study the growth of polyphosphate films from tricresyl phosphate (TCP) molecules on an iron substrate. Molecular adsorption/desorption, bond breaking/formation processes, and diffusion of iron ions through the film are simulated in the kMC stage and the film is relaxed during the MD stage. The kMC/MD method is approximately eleven orders of magnitude faster than equivalent reactive force field (ReaxFF) MD simulations. The simulated film growth rate and topology agree well with experimental results and the chemical structure of the film is consistent with previous molecular dynamics simulations of iron polyphosphates. The newly-developed hybrid kMC/MD methodology can be adapted to yield important insights into thin film growth for several other potential applications.

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