From the Electronic Structure of Point Defects to Functional Properties of Metals and Ceramics

University dissertation from Stockholm : Materialvetenskap

Abstract: Point defects are an inherent part of crystalline materials and they influence important physical and chemical properties, such as diffusion, hardness, catalytic activity and phase stability. Increased understanding of point defects enables us to tailor the defect-related properties to the application at hand. Modeling and simulation have a prominent role in acquiring this knowledge. In this thesis thermodynamic and kinetic properties of point defects in metals and ceramics are studied using first-principles calculations based on density functional theory. Phenomenological models are used to translate the atomic level properties, obtained from the first-principles calculations, into functional materials properties. The next paragraph presents the particular problems under study.The formation and migration of vacancies and simple vacancy clusters in copper are investigated by calculating the energies associated with these processes. The structure, stability and electronic properties of the low-oxygen oxides of titanium, TiOx with 1/3 < x < 3/2, are studied and the importance of structural vacancies is demonstrated. We develop an integrated first-principles and Calphad approach to calculate phase diagrams in the titanium-carbon-nitrogen system, with particular focus on vacancy-induced ordering of the substoichiometriccarbonitride phase, TiCxNy (x+y < 1). The possibility of forming higher oxides of plutonium than plutonium dioxide is explored by calculating the enthalpies for nonstoichiometric defect-containing compounds and the analysis shows that such oxidation is only produced by strong oxidants. For ceria (CeO2) doped with trivalent ions from the lanthanide series we probe the connection between the choice of a dopant and the improvement of ionic conductivity by studying the oxygen-vacancy formation and migration properties. The significance of minimizing the dopant-vacancy interactions is highlighted. We investigate the redox thermodynamics of CeO2-MO2 solid solutions with M being Ti, Zr, Hf, Th, Si, Ge, Sn or Pb and show that reduction is facilitated by small solutes.The results in this thesis are relevant for the performance of solid electrolytes, which are an integral part of solid oxide fuel cells, oxygen storage materials in automotive three-way catalysts, nuclear waste materials and cutting tool materials.