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Latent Tracks in Ion-Irradiated LiTaO3 Crystals: Damage Morphology Characterization and Thermal Spike Analysis...

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Systematic research on the response of crystal materials to the deposition of irradiation energy to electrons and atomic nuclei has attracted considerable attention since it is fundamental to understanding the behavior of various materials in natural and manmade radiation environments. This work examines and compares track formation in LiTaO3 induced by separate and combined effects of electronic excitation and nuclear collision. Under 0.71–6.17 MeV/u ion irradiation with electronic energy loss ranging from 6.0 to 13.8 keV/nm, the track damage morphologies evolve from discontinuous to continuous cylindrical zone. Based on the irradiation energy deposited via electronic energy loss, the subsequently induced energy exchange and temperature evolution processes in electron and lattice subsystems are calculated through the inelastic thermal spike model, demonstrating the formation of track damage and relevant thresholds of lattice energy and temperature. Combined with a disorder accumulation model, the damage accumulation in LiTaO3 produced by nuclear energy loss is also experimentally determined. The damage characterizations and inelastic thermal spike calculations further demonstrate that compared to damage-free LiTaO3, nuclear-collision-damaged LiTaO3 presents a more intense thermal spike response to electronic energy loss owing to the decrease in thermal conductivity and increase in electron–phonon coupling, which further enhance track damage.