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First-principles study of configurational disorder in B4C using a superatom-special quasirandom structure method
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Thin Film Physics. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Theoretical Physics. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Thin Film Physics. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2837-3656
Linköping University, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Thin Film Physics. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
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2014 (English)In: Physical Review B. Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, ISSN 1098-0121, E-ISSN 1550-235X, Vol. 90, no 2, 024204Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Configurationally disordered crystalline boron carbide, with the composition B4C, is studied using first-principles calculations. We investigate both dilute and high concentrations of carbon-boron substitutional defects. For the latter purpose, we suggest a superatoms picture of the complex structure and combine it with a special quasirandom structure approach for disorder. In this way, we model a random distribution of high concentrations of the identified low-energy defects: (1) bipolar defects and (2) rotation of icosahedral carbon among the three polar-up sites. Additionally, the substitutional disorder of the icosahedral carbon at all six polar sites, as previously discussed in the literature, is also considered. Two configurational phase transitions from the ordered to the disordered configurations are predicted to take place upon an increase in temperature using a mean-field approximation for the entropy. The first transition, at 870 K, induces substitutional disorder of the icosahedral carbon atoms among the three polar-up sites; meanwhile the second transition, at 2325 K, reveals the random substitution of the icosahedral carbon atoms at all six polar sites coexisting with bipolar defects. Already the first transition removes the monoclinic distortion existing in the ordered ground-state configuration and restore the rhombohedral system (R3m). The restoration of inversion symmetry yielding the full rhombohedral symmetry (R (3) over barm) on average, corresponding to what is reported in the literature, is achieved after the second transition. Investigating the effects of high pressure on the configurational stability of the disordered B4C phases reveals a tendency to stabilize the ordered ground-state configuration as the configurationally ordering/disordering transition temperature increases with pressure exerted on B4C. The electronic density of states, obtained from the disordered phases, indicates a sensitivity of the band gap to the degree of configurational disorder in B4C.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
American Physical Society , 2014. Vol. 90, no 2, 024204
National Category
Physical Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-109591DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.90.024204ISI: 000339481700003OAI: diva2:739445
Conference name
Available from: 2014-08-21 Created: 2014-08-21 Last updated: 2016-08-31
In thesis
1. First-principles study of configurational disorder in icosahedral boron-rich solids
Open this publication in new window or tab >>First-principles study of configurational disorder in icosahedral boron-rich solids
2015 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is a theoretical study of configurationally disordered icosahedral boronrich solids, in particular boron carbides, using density functional theory and alloy theory. The goal is to resolve discrepancies, regarding the properties of boron carbides, between experiments and previous theoretical calculations which have been a controversial issue in the field of icosahedral boron-rich solids. For instance, B13C2 is observed experimentally to be a semiconductor, meanwhile electronic band structure calculations reveal a metallic character of B13C2 due to its electron deficiency. In B4C, on the other hand, the experimentally observed band gap is unexpectedly smaller, not the usual larger, than that of standard DFT calculations. Another example is given by the existence of a small structural distortion in B4C, as predicted in theoretical calculations, which reduces the crystal symmetry from the experimentally observed rhombohedral (R3m) to the based-centered monoclinic (Cm). Since boron carbide is stable as a single-phase over a broad composition range (~8-20 at.% C), substitution of boron and carbon atoms for one another is conceivable. For this reason, the discrepancies have been speculated in the literature, without a proof, to originate from configurational disorder induced by substitutional defects. However, owing to its complex  atomic structure, represented by 12-atom icosahedra and 3-atom intericosahedral chains, a practical alloy theory method for direct calculations of the properties of the relevant configurations of disordered boron carbides, as well as for a thermodynamic  assessment of their stability has been missing.

In this thesis, a new approach, the superatom-special quasirandom structure (SA-SQS), has been developed. The approach allows one to model configurational disorder in boron carbide, induced by high concentrations of low-energy B/C substitutional defects. B13C2 and B4C are the two stoichiometries, mainly considered in this study, as they are of particular importance and have been in focus in the literature. The results demonstrate that, from thermodynamic considerations, both B13C2 and B4C configurationally disorder at high temperature. In the case of B13C2, the configurational disorder splits off some valence states into the band gap that in turn compensates the electron deficiency in  ordered B13C2, thus resulting in a semiconducting character. As for B4C, the configurational disorder eliminates the monoclinic distortion, thus resulting in the restoration of the higher rhombohedral symmetry. Configurational disorder can also account for an excel lent agreement on elastic moduli of boron carbide between theory and experiment. Thus, several of the previous discrepancies between theory and experiments are resolved.

Inspired by attempts to enhance the mechanical properties of boron suboxide by fabricating boron suboxide-boron carbide composites, as recently suggested in the literature, the SA-SQS approach is used for modeling mixtures of boron suboxide (B6O) and boron carbide (B13C2), denoted by pseudo-binary (B6O)1–x(B13C2)x alloys. The knowledge of configurational disorder, gained from the previous studies of boron carbide, is applied to model the mixing alloys. By investigating the thermodynamics of mixing between B6O and B13C2, the phase diagram of the (B6O)1–x(B13C2)x alloys is outlined and it reveals the existence of a miscibility gap at all temperatures up to the melting point, indicating the coexistence of B6O-rich and either ordered or disordered B13C2-rich domains in (B6O)1–x(B13C2)x alloys under equilibrium condition. However, a limited intermixing of B6O and B13C2 to form solid solutions at high temperature is predicted, e.g. a solid solution of ~5% B13C2 in B6O and ~20% B6O in B13C2 at 2000 K.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2015. 55 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Thesis, ISSN 0280-7971 ; 1731
National Category
Physical Sciences
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-122426 (URN)10.3384/lic.diva-122426 (DOI)978-91-7685-921-6 (print) (ISBN)
2015-11-27, Planck, Fysikhuset, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2015-11-02 Created: 2015-11-02 Last updated: 2016-08-31Bibliographically approved

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