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Nanostructures evolution assessment and spectroscopic properties modification induced by electronic energy loss in KTaO3 crystal

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Materials & Design
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Modifications of micro/nanostructure and photoelectric properties under swift ion irradiation (645 MeV Xe35+) of KTaO3 crystal with varying electronic energy losses (7.2–31.4 keV/nm) and ion velocities (0.18–5.00 MeV/u) have been studied by combining experimental and calculated approaches. The i-TS calculations combined with molecular dynamics simulations are compared with the experimental observations, revealing the inner track fine structures from individual spherical defects to continuous ion tracks with core–shell morphologies, and a quantitative relationship, including the melting (0.42 eV/atom), damage (0.75 eV/atom), and amorphous (1.71 eV/atom) thresholds, is established to successfully predict the inner disorder/amorphous proportions and track damage morphologies. The surface nanostructures of nanohillocks (isolated or partial overlaps) and nanopits (serious overlaps) directly depend on the combined action of the deposited potential and kinetic energies of incident ions, which induce local melting and sublimation in the near-surface region. Owing to the decreased recombination and the increased separation efficiency between electrons and holes, the higher photogenerated charge carrier mobility enhanced the photocurrent effect, further optimizing the photoconductivity performance in Xe35+-irradiated KTaO3. Therefore, controlled defect engineering using the ion irradiation technique, as an effective strategy, could design tailored nanostructure systems and regulate photoelectric properties, further promoting the development of novel technological applications.