Understanding of ionization-induced healing has been advanced by the discovery of substantial annealing of pre-existing defects and restoration of structural order in silicon carbide (SiC) from energy transferred to electrons by energetic ions via inelastic ionization processes. This discovery was validated experimentally by substantial reduction of structural disorder at the macroscopic and atomic levels due to ionization from ions and confirmed by atomistic simulations. The results demonstrate that the energy transfer of only 1.4 keV/nm to electrons causes sufficient ionization to activate this healing process. Because SiC is a key structural and electronic material for extreme radiation environments, these results identify a significant mechanism for self-healing of radiation damage in nuclear and space applications. This work further demonstrates the important effects of energy transfer to electrons in manufacturing devices, engineering nanoscale structures, and predicting material performance in extreme radiation environments where ionization and defect production occur simultaneously.
Yanwen Zhang, Ritesh Sachan, Olli H. Pakarinen, Matthew F. Chisholm, Peng Liu, Haizhou Xue, and William J. Weber, “Ionization-induced annealing of pre-existing defects in silicon carbide,” Nature Commun. 6, 8049 (2015). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9049