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Poöpsel, Christian; Becker, Jonathan; Jeon, Nan; Döblinger, Markus; Stettner, Thomas; Gottschalk, Yeanitza Trujillo; Loitsch, Bernhard; Matich, Sonja; Altzschner, Marcus; Holleitner, Alexander W.; Finley, Jonathan J.; Lauhon, Lincoln J. and Koblmüller, Gregor (2018): He-Ion Microscopy as a High-Resolution Probe for Complex Quantum Heterostructures in Core-Shell Nanowires. In: Nano Letters, Vol. 18, No. 6: pp. 3911-3919

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Core-shell semiconductor nanowires (NW) with internal quantum heterostructures are amongst the most complex nanostructured materials to be explored for assessing the ultimate capabilities of diverse ultrahigh-resolution imaging techniques. To probe the structure and composition of these materials in their native environment with minimal damage and sample preparation calls for high-resolution electron or ion microscopy methods, which have not yet been tested on such classes of ultrasmall quantum nanostructures. Here, we demonstrate that scanning helium ion microscopy (SHeIM) provides a powerful and straightforward method to map quantum heterostructures embedded in complex III-V semiconductor NWs with unique material contrast at similar to 1 nm resolution. By probing the cross sections of GaAs-Al(Ga)As core-shell NWs with coaxial GaAs quantum wells as well as short-period GaAs/AlAs superlattice (SL) structures in the shell, the Al-rich and Ga-rich layers are accurately discriminated by their image contrast in excellent agreement with correlated, yet destructive, scanning transmission electron microscopy and atom probe tomography analysis. Most interestingly, quantitative He-ion dose-dependent SHeIM analysis of the ternary AlGaAs shell layers and of compositionally nonuniform GaAs/AlAs SLs reveals distinct alloy composition fluctuations in the form of Al-rich clusters with size distributions between similar to 1-10 nm. In the GaAs/AlAs SLs the alloy clustering vanishes with increasing SL-period (>5 nm-GaAs/4 nm-AlAs), providing insights into critical size dimensions for atomic intermixing effects in short-period SLs within a NW geometry. The straightforward SHeIM technique therefore provides unique benefits in imaging the tiniest nanoscale features in topography, structure and composition of a multitude of diverse complex semiconductor nanostructures.

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