Annealing of swift heavy ion tracks in amorphous silicon dioxide
The annealing kinetics of the high energy ion damage in amorphous silicon dioxide (a-SiO2) are still not well understood, despite the material's widespread application in material science, physics, geology, and biology. This study investigates how annealing temperature, duration, and ambient environment affect the recovery of irradiation damage produced along the trajectory of swift heavy ions in a-SiO2. The track-annealing kinetics and the changing ion track morphology were investigated using synchrotron-based small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and etching methods. We found that track annealing proceeds quicker near the sample surface demonstrated by a changing track etch rate as a function of depth. Measurements of ion tracks using SAXS show only small changes in the radial density distribution profile of the ion tracks. Activation energy of the annealing process at different sample depths was determined and the effect of the capping layer during the annealing process was also studied. Combination of oxygen diffusion and stress relaxation may contribute to the observed behaviour of preferential and anisotropic healing of the ion track. The results add to the fundamental understanding of ion track damage recovery and may have direct implications for materials for radioactive waste storage and solid state nanopores.
Applied Surface Science