Identification and lattice location of oxygen impurities in α-Si3N4

Idrobo, J. C.; Oxley, M. P.; Walkosz, W.; Klie, R. F.; Öğüt, S.; Mikijelj, B.; Pennycook, S. J.; Pantelides, S. T.
October 2009
Applied Physics Letters;10/19/2009, Vol. 95 Issue 16, p164101
Academic Journal
For over 40 years impurities have been believed to stabilize the ceramic α-Si3N4 but there is no direct evidence for their identity or lattice location. In bulk materials electron microscopy can generally image heavy impurities. Here we report direct imaging of N columns in α-Si3N4 that suggests the presence of excess light elements in specific N columns. First-principles calculations rule out Si or N interstitials and suggest O impurities, which are then confirmed by atomically resolved electron-energy-loss spectroscopy. The result provides a possible explanation for the stability of α-Si3N4 with implications for the design of next-generation structural ceramics.


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