We report on the synthesis of lithium hydride (LiH) epitaxial thin films through the hydrogenation of a Li melt, forming abrupt LiH/MgO interface. Experimental and first-principles molecular dynamics studies reveal a comprehensive microscopic picture of the crystallization processes, which sheds light on the fundamental atomistic growth processes that have remained unknown in the vapor-liquid-solid method. We found that the periodic structure that formed, because of the liquid-Li atoms at the film/MgO-substrate interface, serves as an atomic template for the epitaxial growth of LiH crystals. In contrast, films grown on the Al2O3 substrates indicated polycrystalline films with a LiAlO2 secondary phase. These results and the proposed growth process provide insights into the preparation of other alkaline metal hydride thin films on oxides. Further, our investigations open the way to explore fundamental physics and chemistry of metal hydrides including possible phenomena that emerge at the heterointerfaces of metal hydrides.
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