The evolution of the composition distribution and microstructures of Ge islands on Si(001) during the Si overgrowth was investigated by atomic force microscopy combined with selective wet etching procedures. With increasing Si coverage to 5.4 nm, the uncapped Ge islands were found to change their shapes dramatically from domes to truncated pyramids, nanorings and eventually to the fully buried islands. Different atomic composition profiles in SiGe islands were observed at different Si coverages. Especially, the nanorings were found to have a Ge-rich core with a Si-rich periphery. Based on the experimental results, the Ge redistribution in islands during Si capping is not only correlated with the intermixing between Si capping layer and Ge islands, but also a strain-driven process. (c) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.