Folding Sheets with Ion Beams

Focused ion beams (FIBs) are versatile tools with cross-disciplinary applications from the physical and life sciences to archeology. Nevertheless, the nanoscale patterning precision of FIBs is often accompanied by defect formation and sample deformation. In this study, the fundamental mechanisms governing the large-scale plastic deformation of nanostructures undergoing FIB processes are revealed by a series of molecular dynamic simulations. A surprisingly simple linear correlation between atomic volume removed from the film bulk and film deflection angle, regardless of incident ion energy and current, is revealed, demonstrating that the mass transport to the surface of material caused by energetic ion bombardment is the primary cause leading to nanostructure deformation. Hence, by controlling mass transport by manipulation of the incident ion energy and flux, it is possible to control the plastic deformation of nanostructures, thereby fabricating nanostructures with complex three-dimensional geometries.