Ge islands were grown on Si(001) and then annealed at 650 °C for 0, 20, 40, and 60 min in a chemical-vapor deposition reactor following Ge deposition. This letter confirms the previous observations directly. By combining the ability to quantify strain with the ability to measure island dimensions in a transmission electron microscope, we were able to plot strain versus aspect ratio for the various annealing times. The islands first relax strain because of Si intermixing with the Ge epilayer causes the lattice mismatch to be lowered. Once the mismatch is sufficiently reduced, and thus the strain energy sufficiently reduced, it becomes favorable for the islands to reverse their shape back from domes to pyramids, thus reducing surface energy. This confirms the reversibility of island shape and thus the thermodynamics of the transition.

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