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Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) has been used to investigate the nucleation and stability of iron clusters on the Al2O3/Ni3Al (111) surface as a function of coverage and annealing temperature. We show that atomic beam deposition of iron leads to hexagonally ordered cluster arrangements with a distance of 24 angstrom between the clusters evidencing the template effect of the alumina film. The shape of the iron clusters is two-dimensional (2D) at deposition temperatures from 130 K to 160 K and three-dimensional (3D) at 300 K. However, the 2D iron clusters grown between 130 K and 160 K are stable up to 350 K. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.