The Damaging Consequences of Fibbing

3D Lattice Distortions and Defect Structures in Ion-Implanted Nano-Crystals

F Hofmann, E Tarleton, RJ Harder, NW Phillips, P-W Ma, JN Clark, IK Robinson, B Abbey, W Liu, CE Beck

Scientific Reports 7, 45993 (2017) 

Focussed Ion Beam (FIB) milling is a mainstay of nano-scale machining. By manipulating a tightly focussed beam of energetic ions, often gallium (Ga+), FIB can sculpt nanostructures via localised sputtering. This ability to cut solid matter on the nano-scale revolutionised sample preparation across the life, earth and materials sciences. Despite its widespread usage, detailed understanding of the FIB-induced structural damage, intrinsic to the technique, remains elusive. Here we examine the defects caused by FIB in initially pristine objects. Using Bragg Coherent X-ray Diffraction Imaging (BCDI), we are able to spatially-resolve the full lattice strain tensor in FIB-milled gold nano-crystals. We find that everyuse of FIB causes large lattice distortions. Even very low ion doses, typical of FIB imaging and previously thought negligible, have a dramatic effect. Our results are consistent with a damage microstructure dominated by vacancies, highlighting the importance of free-surfaces in determining which defects are retained. At larger ion fluences, used during FIB-milling, we observe an extended dislocation network that causes stresses far beyond the bulk tensile strength of gold. These observations provide new fundamental insight into the nature of the damage created and the defects that lead to a surprisingly inhomogeneous morphology.