We have examined strain-relaxation of Co-2 × 2 islands grown on the Ag/Ge(111)-√3 × √3 surface by analyzing scanning tunneling microscopy images. We have found that the Co-2 × 2 islands commonly adopt a more compact arrangement as compared to that of the Ge(111) substrate, however they differ in a degree of an atomic compactness. We have not found a distinct relation between strain-relaxation and the island height. Three groups of islands have been identified upon analyzing a correspondence between strain-relaxation and the island size: (i) small islands (not bigger than 80 nm 2) with a high atomic compactness, displaying fixed inter-row distances, (ii) small islands with unfixed distances between atomic rows, and (iii) big islands (bigger than 80 nm 2) with fixed inter-row distances, but with a less compact atomic arrangement compared to that of the first two groups. We propose a model to account for the relation between the relaxation and the island size.
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