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Based on kinetic Monte Carlo simulations, we show that modulated wires and island gratings can be formed at vicinal surfaces. The modulation (grating) wavelength along the steps can be tailored by external conditions (coverage and temperature) and intrinsic surface properties (diffusion, terrace width) via a scaling law. Above 220 K a thermodynamic saturation value for the wavelength occurs, which depends only on the terrace width. This morphological behavior can be understood in terms of nucleation arguments applied to heteroepitaxial growth of Ag on stepped Pt(111) surfaces. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.