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Grazing-incidence small-angle X-ray scattering (GISAXS) is introduced as a method of studying discontinuous thin films. In this method, the incident beam is totally externally reflected from the substrate followed by small-angle scattering of the refracted beam by the thin film. The experiment described establishes the ability of GISAXS to provide size information for islands formed in the initial stages of thin film growth. The data presented are for gold films of 7 and 15 Å average thicknesses on Corning 7059 glass substrates. The advantages of this technique are that it is non-destructive, can be done in situ, provides excellent sampling statistics, does not necessarily require a synchrotron source, and is not limited to thin or conducting substrates.
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