The role of chemical disorder and structural freedom in radiation-induced amorphization of silicon carbide deduced from electron spectroscopy and ab initio simulations

Alexander J. Leide*, Linn W. Hobbs, Ziqiang Wang, Di Chen, Lin Shao, Ju Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Chemical disorder has previously been proposed as an explanation for the anomalously facile amorphization of silicon carbide (SiC), on the basis of topological connectivity arguments alone. In this exploratory study, “amorphous” (formally, aperiodic) SiC structures produced in ab initio molecular dynamics simulations were assessed for their connectivity topology and used to compute synthetic electron energy-loss spectra (EELS) using the ab initio real-space multiple scattering code FEFF. The synthesized spectra were compared to experimental EELS spectra collected from an ion-amorphized SiC specimen. A threshold level of chemical disorder χ (expressed as the ratio of the number of carbon-carbon bonds to the number of carbon-silicon bonds) was found to be χ ≈ 0.38, above which structural relaxation resulted in formally aperiodic structures. Different disordering methodologies resulted in identifiably different aperiodic structures, as assessed by local-cluster analysis and confirmed by collecting near-edge electron energy-loss spectra (ELNES). Such structural differences are predicted to arise for SiC crystals amorphized by irradiations involving different damage mechanisms—and therefore differing disordering mechanisms—for example, when contrasting the respective amorphized products of ion irradiation, neutron irradiation, and high-energy electron irradiation. Evidence for sp2-hybridized carbon bonding is observed, both experimentally in the irradiated sample and in simulations, and related to connectivity topology-based models for the amorphization of silicon carbide. New information about the probable intermediate-range structures present in amorphized silicon carbide is deduced from enumeration of primitive rings and evolution of local cluster configurations during the ab initio-modelled amorphization sequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-310
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Nuclear Materials
Volume514
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Keywords

  • Ab initio simulation
  • Amorphization
  • Disorder
  • EELS
  • Radiation damage
  • Silicon carbide

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