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First-principles study of configurational disorder in B4C using a superatom-special quasirandom structure method

A. Ektarawong, S. I. Simak, L. Hultman, J. Birch, and B. Alling

PHYSICAL REVIEW B 90, 024204 (2014) 

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 superatom’s 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) substitution 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 (R3-m) 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.

A model of a substitutionally disordered B4C represented in (a) a normal-atom picture and (b) a superatom picture. (a) Green and brown spheres represent boron and carbon atoms, respectively. (b) Black, white, and gray spheres represent superatom types A, B, and C, respectively.

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Last updated: 08/21/14