A continuum model for the dynamics of a single step with the strongly anisotropic line energy is formulated and analyzed. The step grows by attachment of adatoms from the lower terrace, onto which atoms adsorb from a vapor phase or from a molecular beam, and the desorption is nonnegligible (the “one-sided” model). Via a multiscale expansion, we derived a long-wave, strongly nonlinear, and strongly anisotropic evolution PDE for the step profile. Written in terms of the step slope, the PDE can be represented in a form similar to a convective Cahn-Hilliard equation. We performed the linear stability analysis and computed the nonlinear dynamics. Linear stability depends on whether the stiffness is minimum or maximum in the direction of the step growth. It also depends nontrivially on the combination of the anisotropy strength parameter and the atomic flux from the terrace to the step. Computations show formation and coarsening of a hill-and-valley structure superimposed onto a long-wavelength profile, which independently coarsens. Coarsening laws for the hill-and-valley structure are computed for two principal orientations of a maximum step stiffness, the increasing anisotropy strength, and the varying atomic flux.


Dynamical Systems | Non-linear Dynamics | Partial Differential Equations