Non-equilibrium molecular dynamics was used to simulate the dynamics of atoms at the atom probe surface and five objective functions were used to quantify errors. The results suggested that before ionization, thermal vibration and collision caused the atoms to displace up to 1 Å and 25 Å respectively. The average atom displacements were found to vary between 0.2 and 0.5 Å. About 9 to 17% of the atoms were affected by collision. Due to the effects of collision and ion-ion repulsion, the back-calculated positions were on average 0.3–0.5 Å different from the pre-ionized positions of the atoms when the number of ions generated per pulse was minimal. This difference could increase up to 8–10 Å when 1.5 ion/nm2 were evaporated per pulse. On the basis of the results, surface ion density was considered an important factor that needed to be controlled to minimize error in the evaporation process.
- Atom probe
- Molecular dynamics