A microwave-induced hydrothermal etching of SrTiO3 (100) single crystal surfaces in deionized water and subsequent annealing in oxygen atmosphere results in single-terminated and atomically flat terraces for pure and niobium-doped substrates as confirmed through one unit-cell step height and uniform phase by atomic force microscopy. This process that requires 3 min of moderate microwave radiation completely avoids the use of hydrofluoric acid (HF) and related point defects due to fluorine in the crystal surface. The advantages of a safe, inexpensive, and environmentally neutral process hold promise to replace the existing standard protocol for substrate preparation based on buffered HF.

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