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The kinetics of island growth on Si(111) with a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) is measured as a function of the tip–sample bias voltage. Two processes appear to be involved in the island growth in the center of the tip–sample interaction. Field-induced evaporation transfers atoms between the sample and the STM tip, and creates an area of incomplete surface structures with atoms mobile under the electric field. The second process is directional field-induced diffusion which transfers atoms along the surface. We derived a scaling relation for the initial island growth rate, the dipole moments of atoms on the surface, and the tip–sample bias voltage. This scaling relation was used to estimate the values of field–dipole interaction parameters from the kinetic data obtained for the initial island growth rate. © 2000 American Vacuum Society.