Stabilization of MgAl2O4 spinel surfaces via doping

MM Hasan and PP Dholabhai and RHR Castro and BP Uberuaga, SURFACE SCIENCE, 649, 138-145 (2016).

DOI: 10.1016/j.susc.2016.01.028

Surface structure of complex oxides plays a vital role in processes such as sintering, thin film growth, and catalysis, as well as being a critical factor determining the stability of nanoparticles. Here, we report atomistic calculations of the low-index stoichiometric magnesium aluminate spinel (MgAl2O4) surfaces, each with two different chemical terminations. High temperature annealing was used to explore the potential energy landscape and provide more stable surface structures. We find that the lowest energy surface is 100 while the highest energy surface is 111). The surfaces were subsequently doped with three trivalent dopants (Y3+, Gd3+, La3+) and one tetravalent dopant (Zr4+) and both the surface segregation energies of the dopants and surface energies of the doped surface were determined. All of the dopants reduce the surface energy of spinel, though this reduction in energy depends on both the size and valence of the dopant. Dopants with larger ionic radius tend to segregate to the surface more strongly and reduce the surface energy to a greater extent. Furthermore, the ionic valence of the dopants seems to have a stronger influence on the segregation than does ionic size. For both undoped and doped spinel, the predicted crystal shape is dominated by 100 surfaces, but the relative fraction of the various surfaces changes with doping due to the unequal changes in energy, which has implications on equilibrium nano particle shapes and therefore on applications sensitive to surface properties. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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