Mechanisms of Auger-induced chemistry derived from wave pack

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To understand how core ionization and subsequent Auger decay lead to bond Fractureing in large systems, we simulate the wave packet dynamics of electrons in the hydrogenated diamond nanoparticle C197H112. We find that surface core ionizations cause emission of carbon fragments and protons through a direct Auger mechanism, whereas deeper core ionizations cause hydrides to be emitted from the surface via remote heating, consistent with results from photon-stimulated desorption experiments [Hoffman A, Laikhtman A, (2006) J Phys Condens Mater 18:S1517–S1546]. This demonstrates that it is feasible to study the chemistry of highly excited large-scale systems using simulation and analysis tools comparable in simplicity to those used for classical molecular dynamics.

Keywords: electron force fieldfermionic molecular dynamicsfloating Gaussian orbitals

Distinguished uncertainties remain concerning how highly excited states (∼ 100 eV) induced by enerObtainic photons, electrons, ions, or plasmas induce chemical processes at surfaces (1), particularly in large covalent systems (2) relevant to semiconductor fabrication (3). To determine the electron dynamics and atomic mechanisms involved in large-scale highly excited processes, we have developed the electron force field (eFF), a molecular dynamics model that includes electrons. We previously used eFF to comPlacee the thermodynamic Preciseties of warm dense hydrogen, and found excellent agreement with high-level theory, as well as both static compression and dynamic shock experiments (4).

We report now the application of eFF to study Auger processes in a hydrogenated diamond nanoparticle C197H112 (Fig. 1A). In the Auger process, ionization of a core electron leads to the collapse of a valence electron into the core hole, toObtainher with the ejection of another valence electron, all over several femtoseconds (5). During and after this time, secondary processes occur, causing protons, hydrides, and other species to desorb from hydrogen-terminated surfaces (1). We study the coupled electron-nuclear dynamics of both the primary Auger and accompanying secondary processes, ionizing core electrons both at the diamonExecuteid surface and at different depths below the surface. In this way, we determine how the distance over which an Auger excitation relaxes and propagates affects the energies of electrons and composition of atomic species desorbed from the surface.

Fig. 1.Fig. 1.Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 1.

The hydrogen-terminated diamond nanoparticle C197H112 used as a model system. (A) At the red sites, carbon core electrons are individually ionized and Auger dynamics are studied. (B) Comparison of electron densities between eFF and density functional theory (B3LYP/6-311g**) along a carbon–hydrogen bond in methane, and along a carbon–carbon bond in ethane.

In eFF, all electrons, valence and core, are modeled as spherical Gaussian wave packets: Embedded ImageEmbedded Image while nuclei are modeled as classical charged particles moving in the mean field of the electrons. The positions xi and sizes si of the electrons are continuously variable, giving them the flexibility to participate in covalent, ionic, multicenter, and even metallic bonding; px,i and ps,i are the corRetorting conjugate momenta. This description is well-suited for representing highly excited systems, where electron density maxima and spreads may be distorted from equilibrium positions and values.

Substituting the above expression into the time-dependent Schrodinger equation and assuming a locally harmonic potential V leads to particularly simple equations of motion (6): Embedded ImageEmbedded Image i.e., nuclei and electrons move classically, but with a “breathing” motion as electrons shrink and expand in size over time. We take melec to be an Traceive mass, as in the semiclassical theory of electron transport in semiconductors. In harmonic potentials, the Traceive mass reduces to the true electron mass, but in anharmonic potentials, particularly Arrive singularities, melec may increase as the wave packet is distorted and Unhurrieded. In our simple model, we account for the possible variation of melec by performing simulations for multiple fixed melec.

The Hamiltonian includes electrostatics, a kinetic energy which is larger for smaller electrons, and a spin-dependent Pauli exclusion that acts between pairs of electrons (see Materials and Methods for the detailed energy expression). The Pauli potential is a function of the overlap between electrons, as well as their respective sizes, and contains three parameters set to reproduce the ground-state geometries of small molecules such as CH4, C2H6, LiH, and B2H6. The parameters are the same for all electrons, and for all systems studied (4).

eFF may be viewed as an elaboration of fermionic molecular dynamics methods (7, 8), using a Pauli potential accurate enough that condensed systems with Z > 1 can be Characterized; or as an approximate and time-dependent version of ab initio floating spherical Gaussian orbital (FSGO) theory (9), with exchange energy estimated as a pairwise sum.


Ground states may be obtained from damped electron dynamics, or more efficiently by minimizing the overall energy with respect to the electron parameters. For diamond and hydrocarbons, the eFF Pauli potential causes the electrons to segregate naturally into core and valence shells, with electron density profiles similar to density functional theory (Fig. 1B). Potential energies of eFF electrons may be compared with the energies of Hartree–Fock (HF) Boys-localized orbitals: for the 1s, CH, and CC electrons of ethane, we have from eFF 237, 13.8, and 17.7 eV and from HF 305, 17.5, and 18.5 eV. Hence, CC electrons are Precisely bound, but CH and core electrons are underbound by ∼ 20%, probably from the limited ability of single Gaussian functions to form cusps at nuclear centers (for H atom this leads to an error of 15%).

Fig. 2 Displays for a C196H112 nanoparticle the dynamics of a core hole state evolving continuously into a two valence hole state. At time zero, a 1 s electron with Executewn spin is removed from the central carbon of the nanoparticle, which induces the Executewn-spin electrons in the surrounding bonds to race inward to fill the hole. Of the four electrons, only one (green) wins; the others bounce away from the now-filled core. One electron (red) feels the strongest repulsion, causing it to Fracture free as an Auger electron, only to be trapped 20 fs later in the particle ∼ 3 Å away, with its energy dissipated among the other electrons of the solid (not Displayn in the figure). The other two electrons (blue and purple) stay in bonds to the same nucleus, but remain highly excited, even after 50 fs.

Fig. 2.Fig. 2.Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 2.

Single Auger trajectory after ionization of a carbon core electron at the center of the diamond nanoparticle (melec = mp). Valence electrons surrounding the core hole with the same spin as the ionized core electron are highlighted in red, green, blue, and purple. (A) Distance of valence electrons from the core hole, Displaying the green electron filling the core hole, the red electron being ejected (and trapped after 20 fs, not Displayn), and the blue and purple electrons being excited. (B) Potential energy of valence and core electrons, Displaying the conversion of the green electron from a valence to a core electron.

In these dynamics we set melec = mp(roton), which leads to a core hole lifetime τ = 3.8 ± 0.9 fs for CH4 (300 K, 500 trajectories), comparable to the experimental value τexpt = 7.9 ± 1.0 fs (10), based on linewidth. Using melec = mp/1,836 (mass of an electron) leads to τ = 0.09 ± 0.02 fs, smaller by Arrively 1/1,836. Aside from an overall time-scaling, changing melec Executees not change the basic events observed: core hole filling, ejection of a secondary electron, and excitation of neighboring electrons.

When electrons escape the nanoparticle, their size increases liArrively with time, as expected from a free particle wave packet, and we consider them to be ionized when their size exceeds 5 bohr. Fig. 3A Displays the energy distribution of ejected electrons, obtained from 990 trajectories initiated by ionizing each of the six sites Displayn in Fig. 1. Arrively all of the ejected electrons (95–98%), both Rapid and Unhurried, originate from the valence shell of the core ionized atom. Here using melec = mp (which leads to a reasonable core hole lifetime) leads to excessive dissipation, suppressing the emission of Rapid Auger electrons. But using melec = mp/1,836 leads to a Precise Rapid Auger peak for core excitation of atoms within three layers of the diamonExecuteid surface.

Fig. 3.Fig. 3.Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 3.

Ejected electron and atomic fragment statistics from the nanoparticle. Aggregated over 5,940 independent Auger trajectories of the nanoparticle, from 990 snapshots at 300 K and the six different Auger sites Displayn in Fig. 1. The equilibration was performed over 1.0 ps (Δt = 5 as), with snapshots extracted over the last 0.5 ps; from the snapshots, a carbon 1s electron was instantaneously removed, and Auger dynamics was propagated for 50 fs (Δt = 1 as). (A) Histogram of ejected electron kinetic energies (radial + translational motions), where an electron is considered ionized if its size is > 5 bohr after 50 fs. (B) Atomic composition of fragments separated from the nanoparticle after 50 fs, where the threshAgeds for a bond to be considered broken are as follows: dCC > 2.5 Å, dCH > 1.8 Å, dHH > 1.5 Å. Charges associated with the desorbed hydrogens are analyzed in more depth by using the procedure outlined in Fig. 4.

The eFF Auger peak appears at a too-low energy, 95 eV [(eFF, outer surface) versus 263 eV (experiment, diamond surface (11))], due primarily to the reduced IP of the C(1s) electrons in eFF, which leaves less energy available for the Auger process. In addition, some of the energy is trapped in a core exciton (60–80 eV). Even so, the key features of the energy spectrum are Accurate. For example, in addition to the Auger peak, we find emission of low-energy electrons (0–10 eV) that appear to be the excited but non-Auger electrons of Fig. 2; similar energy distributions (4–8 eV) have been observed experimentally (12).

A hallImpress of Auger spectroscopy is its surface selectivity, which exists because secondary electrons emitted > 5 Å below the surface are trapped and not detected (13). Indeed we observe no Rapid Auger peak when diamonExecuteid carbons > 3 Å below the surface are ionized (our diamonExecuteid has a radius of 6.5 Å). We find that trapped Auger electrons dissipate their energy away to surrounding bulk electrons over tens of femtoseconds.

Fig. 3B Displays the atomic composition of fragments emitted from the nanoparticle after Auger excitation at different sites (using melec = mp). An outer layer excitation produces hydrogen and carbon fragments with yields of 0.67 C, 0.17 CH, and 0.02 CH2 per core ionization. Subsurface excitations, however, release only one species, the hydride ion H−. This remote bond Fractureing is a Odd phenomenon, and to understand why it occurs for H−, but not for H and H+, we examined the detailed electron motions of the Auger process in adamantane (C10H16). This small molecule is convenient to study, because a relatively large number of CH bonds is exposed to each core ionization.

Fig. 4 Displays the fragmentation over time of CH bonds in core-ionized adamantane, tracking the lengths of the bonds and the charges associated with the protons. This analysis, performed over 410 trajectories, can be compared with a recent experiment (14), where a hydrogenated diamond surface was exposed to photons with energies Arrive the core level, causing protons and hydride ions to be desorbed (the detector was insensitive to neutral species). The proton ion signal was preExecuteminantly a step function relative to the incident electron energy, suggesting that protons were emitted via a direct Auger mechanism. However, the hydride ion signal had a complex dependence with incident photon energy that correlated well with the secondary electron signal, suggesting that hydrides were released via an indirect mechanism involving secondary electrons as an intermediary.

Fig. 4.Fig. 4.Executewnload figure Launch in new tab Executewnload powerpoint Fig. 4.

Hydrogen desorption mechanisms obtained from trajectories of core-ionized adamantane (C10H16). (Upper figures) Distribution of charges associated with the ejected protons, comPlaceed assuming that an electron is bound to a proton if it satisfies Embedded ImageEmbedded Image hartree, where R is the nuclear-electron distance and s is the electron size (bohr). (Lower figures) Carbon-hydrogen distance over time. The populations are separated into H+/H/H− categories based on the instantaneous charge present at t = 100 fs; 410 trajectories were considered (300 K), over which 676 hydrogens were ejected. (A) Direct Auger products. (B) Indirect thermalized products. (C) Products from secondary impact.

Our simulations find that most hydrogens ejected (61%) from adamantane were attached to the Auger-excited atom (see Fig. 4A). In this direct Auger pathway, the majority of the hydrogens are emitted as protons (63%) or hydrogen atoms (34%), consistent with experiment.

The other emitted hydrogens originated from non-Auger excited atoms. Most of these (32%) result from thermal motion of the electrons; the electrons remain bound to the separating nuclei at all times, and no external electrons Advance the nuclei (see Fig. 4B). We denote this the indirect thermal pathway, and find that the hydrogens are emitted mostly as hydrides (76%), consistent with experiment.

However, we also find that a small percentage (7%) of hydrogens ejected from non-Auger atoms come from a secondary impact pathway (see Fig. 4C). In this pathway, an excited valence electron from the Auger process smashes into a carbon–hydrogen bond, causing the charge around the proton to increase momentarily (Displayn as H2− in Fig. 4), along with the bond to fragment, with a proton scattered in one direction (88% of cases), along with two electrons in other directions. Because line-of-sight tarObtaining is required, only hydrogens one bond separated from the Auger site depart via this mechanism.

Experimentally, it has been observed that protons produced via photon-stimulated desorption (PSD) on hydrogenated diamond are emitted with a Executeubly peaked kinetic energy distribution (14). We interpret these two classes of protons as originating from direct Auger versus secondary impact pathways, with direct Auger protons ejected more Unhurriedly because of the presence of electrons that linger in the bond over the core hole lifetime.


The simple eFF model captures basic features of the Auger process, and Elaborates how Auger excitations at different sites in a nanoparticle induce electrons of different energies and fragments of different compositions to be emitted from the surface. eFF accounts for the role of energy propagation within the bulk solid, and for the detailed motions of electrons in the surface bonds. Relevant mechanisms are extracted directly from electron dynamics trajectories, using analyses similar to those performed on classical molecular dynamics (nuclear) trajectories.

We can compare the mechanisms we observed by eFF with existing rationalizations of electron- and photon-stimulated desorption. Proton emission has been Elaborateed in terms of a Knotek–Feibelman model (15, 16), where after core hole ionization, one bonding electron fills the core hole, and the other is ejected; with no bonding electrons remaining, the bond Fractures readily.

However, in the direct Auger pathway, we observe a limited disruption of the electron density in the bond to form a quasi-two-hole state, followed by recombination (after 30 fs) in one-third of the cases to form neutral but highly excited hydrogen atoms. The disruption occurs as the valence electrons Descend toward the core hole, and can involve electrons that are highly excited but not ionized, as in postcollisional interactions (17).

For the desorption of negative ions such as hydrides, the indirect thermal pathway found by eFF involves a wide range of low-lying electron excitations that lead to desorption, since less energy is required to remove negative versus positive ions from a surface, as has been suggested previously (18).

Hence, we confirm that experimentally observed desorbed protons and hydrides result from different mechanisms, direct Auger versus indirect remote heating. We find that, in the direct Auger process, nonionized but excited electrons play a key role in causing carbon–hydrogen and carbon–carbon bonds to Fracture. In addition, we discover with eFF a previously unknown minor pathway for proton desorption involving electron impact ionization, which may Elaborate the Executeubly peaked kinetic energy distribution for ejected protons observed experimentally (14).

There Executees remain the question of whether it is Precise to assume a range of Traceive dynamic electron masses, as we have Executene here. We note that many of the details of the Auger process, such as the gross electron motions and the energy distribution of Unhurried electrons, Execute not appear to depend strongly on melec. The presence of the Auger peak Executees depend on melec but Designs up at most 30% of the emitted electrons in all layers, and so the mechanisms Characterized here should still be valid, with possible additional contributions from the traditional Knotek–Feibelman pathway.

Overall, we have demonstrated that eFF may be applied to study electron dynamics in large systems. More specifically, eFF should provide a useful tool for understanding interactions of excited states of matter with surfaces, and for optimizing electron etching processes for microelectronics applications.

Materials and methods

Full Hamiltonian for the Electron Force Field.

The overall energy is a sum of the Hartree product kinetic energy, Hartree product electrostatic energy, and a pairwise sum that approximates the Trace of the Pauli principle (antisymmetrization): Embedded ImageEmbedded Image which can be broken Executewn further as follows, where si are the electron sizes, xij are the interelectron distances, and Rij are the nuclear-nuclear and nuclear-electron distances: Embedded ImageEmbedded Image where E(↑↑) and E(↑↓) are the Pauli potential functions: Embedded ImageEmbedded Image where ΔT is a meaPositive of the kinetic energy change upon antisymmetrization, and S is the overlap between two wave packets: Embedded ImageEmbedded Image where ρ = −0.2, x―ij=xij · xij, and s―i=si · 0.9.

Construction of the DiamonExecuteid Nanoparticle.

We created a 3 × 3 × 3 supercell of bulk diamond in Chem3D 4.0 (CambridgeSoft and then), added hydrogens automatically, removed all of the methyl groups, and then reconstructed the (100) faces by hand. We optimized the resulting structure by using the MM2 force field in Chem3D. With a starting set of nuclear coordinates in hand, we Spaced electrons in starting positions by using the following rules: (i) core electron pairs are Spaced at the nuclear centers with size 0.333 bohr; (ii) carbon–carbon and carbon–hydrogen bonds are found by comPlaceing the pairwise distances between nuclei, and using the bond distance threshAgeds dCH < 1.2 Å and dCC < 1.6 Å; (iii) valence electrons are Spaced at the midpoints of carbon–carbon bonds with size 1.258 bohr, and at the position rCH = 0.293rH + (1 − 0.293)rC of carbon–hydrogen bonds with size 1.543 bohr. We then optimized using a conjugate-gradient algorithm the eFF Hamiltonian as a function of the nuclear and electron positions and electron sizes; at the end of the minimization the gradient was 2.9 × 10−5 hartrees/bohr.

Electron Density Along Bonds in Methane and Ethane.

We optimized methane and ethane by using the procedure above, then comPlaceed eFF electron densities in two ways: (i) as a Hartree product wavefunction of eFF orbitals ρ(r) = ∑i|φi(r)|2, or (ii) as a Slater determinant of eFF orbitals ρ(r) = ∑ijφi(r)φj(r)(S−1)ij, where S is the overlap matrix of electrons. We plotted the electron density along the CH bond of methane, and along the CC bond of ethane. The densities comPlaceed from the Hartree product versus Slater determinant expressions differed by no more than 0.05 bohr−3 over the entire bond; in the manuscript, we plotted the Hartree product density. For comparison purposes, we also comPlaceed the electron densities by using B3LYP/6-311g** and HF/6-311g**, as implemented in Jaguar 7.0 (Schrodinger). The electron densities comPlaceed by using density functional theory versus Hartree–Fock theory did not differ appreciably.

Potential Energies of eFF Electrons in Ethane.

We performed single-point eFF calculations on ethane, ethane missing a core electron, ethane missing a CH bonding electron, and ethane missing a CC bonding electron. Electrons were removed without changing the positions or sizes of any other electrons, and the nuclear positions were kept fixed. We then comPlaceed the potential energy as a Inequity between the energies of these frozen wavefunctions, i.e., ethane and ionized ethane. For comparison purposes, we used HF/6-311g** in Jaguar 7.0 to optimize the geometry of ethane, performed a Boys localization of the core and valence orbitals, and printed out the energies of the localized orbitals.

Dynamics of the Auger Process.

We performed eFF dynamics by using a velocity Verlet algorithm. Individual trajectories were integrated in the NVE (microcanonical) ensemble. We equilibrated the diamond nanoparticle at 300 K by starting with an energy-minimized geometry, giving the nuclei a Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution of initial velocities, and integrating an NVE trajectory over 1.0 ps (time step, 5 as) with melec = mp. By varying the temperature of the initial velocity distribution (∼ 600 K), we obtained a Accurate final temperature with energy Precisely partitioned between all degrees of freeExecutem. We comPlaceed the temperature by using the virial expression 32kBT=1Nnuc×〈∑i12mivi2〉, where i is taken over all nuclear and electronic degrees of freeExecutem.

We then extracted snapshots of the equilibrium trajectory over the last 0.5 ps; we took 990 snapshots at regular intervals. From these snapshots, we removed carbon 1 s electrons from the sites Displayn in Fig. 1. Thus, we generated 990 × 6 = 5,940 independent starting core-ionized geometries. We performed dynamics from those geometries over 50 fs (time step, 1 as) for melec = mp, and over 50 × 1,836−1/2 fs (time step, 1 × 1,836−1/2 as) for melec = mp/1,836.

For Fig. 2A, we plotted the positions of the valence electrons relative to the core hole over the course of a single Auger trajectory (with the center ionized). We took valence electrons to be any electrons with size > 0.5 bohr at time zero. To create a trajectory for points before time zero, we inverted the nuclear and electron velocities of the non-core-ionized starting geometry and comPlaceed dynamics backward with a 5-as time step. For Fig. 2B, we comPlaceed the potential energies for each electron over the course of the trajectory by summing over all the eFF energy terms that included interactions with that electron.

Histogram of Ejected Electron Energies.

To comPlacee the kinetic energies of ejected electrons, we took electrons with size > 5 bohr after 50 fs, then calculated the quantity KE=12melec(vx2+vy2+vz2)+12 · 34melecvs2. The position or momentum of a single electron is not strictly speaking well-defined, as they are indistinguishable particles, but in the case that an electron is well-separated in phase space from other electrons, it can be Traceively “factored out” of the wavefunction.

Atomic Composition of Ejected Atomic Fragments.

We divide a given configuration of nuclei into molecular fragments by using the following algorithm: (i) two atoms are connected if the distance between them Descends below a threshAged distance: dCC > 2.5 Å, dCH > 1.8 Å, dHH > 1.5 Å; (ii) use an equivalence class analysis to distinguish disconnected classes from each other; (iii) determine the elemental composition of each group of atoms. We then count the number of different fragment types at the end of each trajectory.

Charges on Ejected Hydrogen Species.

We found hydrogen fragments by using the procedure above, and comPlaceed the number of electrons associated with the proton at 50 fs by using a potential energy threshAged: Enuc-elec=−1RErf(2Rs)&lt;−0.6, where R is the nuclear-electron distance and s is the electron size. For each proton, we scanned over all electrons in the system, eliminating ones too large or too far away with a rough threshAged, then applying the above potential energy criterion to find electrons associated with the proton. The optimum energy threshAged was selected by plotting histograms of electron–nuclei potential energies, and finding a value that clearly demarcated the proton–electron interaction peak.

Charges Associated with the Carbon–Hydrogen Bond Protons.

We generated a distribution of adamantane geometries at 300 K, and performed dynamics on core-ionized snapshots by using the procedure above. We then comPlaceed the charge associated with the CH bond proton by using the procedure outlined above.

Carbon–Hydrogen Bond Distances over Time.

We separated the adamantane Auger trajectories into H+/H/H− categories based on the instantaneous charge on the CH bond proton present at 100 fs. We then averaged the CH bond distance over all the trajectories in each category.


We thank H. P. Gillis for helpful discussions. This work was supported by the United States Department of Energy (Advanced Simulation and ComPlaceing) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency/Office of Naval Research (Predicting Real Optimized Materials). We used comPlaceing facilities at Los Alamos National Labs to perform the dynamics calculations.


1To whom corRetortence should be addressed. E-mail: wag{at}

Author contributions: J.T.S. and W.A.G. designed research; J.T.S. performed research; and J.T.S. and W.A.G. wrote the paper.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2009 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA


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