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Cross-sectional scanning tunneling microscopy is used to study strain relaxation in a graded Si1-xGex/Si heterostructure. Two strain relaxation mechanisms are observed on the (111) cleaved surface. One is through stressing the substrate, and the strained region in the substrate can extend several hundred Angstroms from the interface. The other strain relaxation mechanism is through defect formation, i.e., atomic steps, on the cleaved surface. This is analogous to misfit dislocations in bulk strain relaxation. Interaction between these two strain relaxation mechanisms is also observed, with the presence of atomic steps reducing the strained region in the substrate. © 1999 American Institute of Physics.
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