The mechanism of multi domain formation and strain evolution in highly mismatched sputter-grown ZnO/Al2O3(0001) hereroepitaxial films was investigated. Real-time synchrotron X-ray scattering measurements revealed the existence of a critical thickness at which 30° rotated domains (i.e., twin domains) started to nucleate within the ZnO films. The rotated domain growth above the critical thickness was shown to stop as the strain became almost fully relaxed, which indicated that the rotated domains in the sputter-grown ZnO were mechanical faults, not growth faults. We present a schematic modeling of the formation of rotated domains formation during the early growth stage.
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