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We have studied the early stage dynamics of ripple patterns on Si surfaces, in the fluence range of 1-3 x 10(18) ions cm(-2), as induced by medium energy Ar+-ion irradiation at room temperature. Under our experimental conditions, the ripple evolution is found to be in the linear regime, while a clear decreasing trend in the ripple wavelength is observed up to a certain time (fluence). Numerical simulations of a continuum model of ion-sputtered surfaces suggest that this anomalous behavior is due to the relaxation of the surface features of the experimental pristine surface during the initial stage of pattern formation. The observation of this hitherto unobserved behavior of the ripple wavelength seems to have been enabled by the use of medium energy ions, where the ripple wavelengths are found to be order(s) of magnitude larger than those at lower ion energies.
signal processing; microscopy; ion beam analysis; geometrical optics; ion source; transition metals; chemical elements; interface dynamics; surface physics; stochastic processes