Direct observation of a (3 x 3) phase in alpha-Pb/Ge(111) at 10 K

Phys Rev Lett. 2005 Nov 11;95(20):206102. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.95.206102. Epub 2005 Nov 10.


We have investigated the recently reported structural phase transition at low temperature (LT) for alpha-Pb/Ge(111) [from a (3 x 3) symmetry to a disordered phase] using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). By tracking exactly the same surface regions with atomic resolution while varying the sample temperature from 40 to 140 K, we have observed that substitutional point defects are not mobile, in clear contrast to previous assumptions. Moreover, STM data measured at the lowest temperatures ever reported for this system (10 K) show that while filled-state images display the apparent signature of a glassy phase with no long-range order, in empty-state images honeycomb patterns with (3 x 3) periodicity, and not distinguishable from data measured at much higher temperatures, are clearly resolved. These new observations cast serious doubts on the nature and/or on the existence of a disordered phase at LT.