Molecular dynamics simulations of vapor-phase nucleation of germanium in an argon atmosphere were performed and a unexpected channel of nucleation was observed. This channel, vapor-induced cluster splitting, is important for more refractory materials since the critical nucleus size can fall below the size of a dimer. As opposed to conventional direct vapor nucleation of the dimer, which occurs by three-body collisions, cluster-splitting nucleation is a second-order reaction. The most important cluster-splitting reaction is the collision of a vapor atom and a trimer that leads to the formation of two dimers. The importance of the cluster-splitting nucleation channel relative to the direct vapor nucleation channel is observed to increase with decreasing vapor density and increasing ratio of vapor to carrier gas atoms.

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