Vibrations in solids : From first principles lattice dynamics to high temperature phase stability

Abstract: In this thesis I introduce a new method for calculating the temperature dependent vibrational contribution to the free energy of a substitutionally disordered alloy that accounts for anharmonicity at high temperatures. This method exploits the underlying crystal symmetries in an alloy to make the calculations tractable. The validity of this approach is demonstrated by constructing the phase diagram via direct minimization of the Gibbs free energy of a notoriously awkward and technologically important system, Ti1-xAlxN. The vibrational entropy including anharmonic effects is shown to be large and comparable to the configurational entropy at high temperatures, and with its inclusion, the theoretical miscibility gap of Ti1-xAlxN is reduced from 6560 K to 2860 K, in line with atom probe experiments. A similar treatment of Zr1-xAlxN and Hf1-xAlxN alloys suggests that mass disorder has a minimal effect on phase stability compared with chemical ordering. My method is also capable of demonstrating that Hf1-xAlxN, which is dynamically unstable at room temperature, is stabilised at high temperatures. Moreover I develop a new method of computing temperature dependent elastic constants for alloys from their phonon spectra, and show that for Ti1-xAlxN, the elastic anisotropy is found to increase with temperature, helping to explain the spinodal decomposition.The effects of lattice dynamics on phase stability, mechanical, magnetic and transport properties on other materials are also examined. Four specific systems are discussed in detail. Firstly, in the case of CrN, lattice vibrations are shown to decrease the antiferromagnetic to paramagnetic phase transition temperature from 500 K to 380 K, in line with experimental evidence. Secondly, a temperature/pressure induced phase transition in AlN becomes much more facile than in the quasiharmonic approximation, and the thermal conductivity of the rocksalt phase is shown to be much lower than that of the wurtzite phase, as a result of the increased anharmonicity in the rocksalt structure. Thirdly, the temperature dependence of elastic constants of TiN becomes more isotropic as the temperature increases. Finally, iron carbides are evaluated as potentially important phases at the Earth’s core; specifically, calculating the Gibbs free energy of a recently discovered orthorhombic phase of Fe7C3 demonstrates that it is not stable relative to the known hexagonal phase at extreme pressure and temperatures.