Semiconducting materials are of immense importance due to their presence in almost all modern devices. It is possible that the surface physics of semiconductors could be used to control the nanoscale topography and properties of these materials, ultimately creating new options for device fabrication. This could result in profound implications for improvements in modern technology. In this paper, results from a previous study that characterized nanoscale pyramidal structures on the surface of sputtered germanium (110) are retested, as there may have been trace silver contamination on the sample holders used in the experiment. If there was contamination, these silver atoms could have landed on the surface of the Ge samples during sputtering and provided the nucleation points for the observed structures.
To verify the results of this previous study, troubleshooting and repairs were performed on a scanning tunneling microscope in the laboratory. The repaired scanning tunneling microscope was then used to image a Ge (110) sample sputtered in a new, uncontaminated sample holder. This new sample showed no indication of pyramidal structures forming during sputtering. We conclude that silver contamination was the likely cause of the previously observed structures.