We show here that the morphological pathway of spontaneous dewetting of ultrathin Ag films on SiO2 under nanosecond laser melting is found to be film thickness dependent. For films with thickness h between 2<=h<=9.5 nm, the intermediate stages of the morphology consisted of bicontinuous structures. For films 11.5<=h<=20 nm, the intermediate stages consisted of regularly-sized holes. Measurement of the characteristic length scales for different stages of dewetting as a function of film thickness showed a systematic increase, which is consistent with the spinodal dewetting instability over the entire thickness range investigated. This change in morphology with thickness is consistent with observations made previously for polymer films [A. Shama et al, Phys. Rev. Lett., v81, pp3463 (1998); R. Seemann et al, J. Phys. Cond. Matt., v13, pp4925, (2001)]. Based on the behavior of free energy curvature that incorporates intermolecular forces, we have estimated the morphological transition thickness for Ag on SiO2. The theory predictions agree well with observations for Ag. These results show that it is possible to form a variety of complex Ag nanomorphologies in a consistent manner, which could be useful in optical applications of Ag surfaces, such as in surface enhanced Raman sensing.
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