The phase stability of nanocrystallites with metastable crystal structures under ambient conditions is usually attributed to their small grain size. It remains a challenging problem to maintain such phase integrity of these nanomaterials when their crystallite sizes become larger. Here we report an experimental-modelling approach to study the roles of nitrogen dopants in the formation and stabilization of cubic ZrO 2 nanocrystalline films. Mixed nitrogen and argon ion beam assisted deposition (IBAD) was applied to produce nitrogen-implanted cubic ZrO 2 nanocrystallites with grain sizes of 8-13 nm. Upon thermal annealing, the atomic structure of these ZrO 2 films was observed to evolve from a cubic phase, to a tetragonal phase and then a monoclinic phase. Our X-ray absorption near edge structure study on the annealed samples together with first-principle modelling revealed the significance of the interstitial nitrogen in the phase stabilization of nitrogen implanted cubic ZrO 2 crystallites via the soft mode hardening mechanism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry