Journal of Physics Condensed Matter

Equilibrium lines and barriers to phase transitions: The cubic diamond to beta-tin transition in Si from first principles

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The phase transition between the cubic diamond (cd) and beta-tin (β-Sn) phases of Si under pressure and the region of interaction of the two phases are studied by first-principles total energy calculations. For a non-vibrating crystal we determine the pressure of the thermodynamic phase transition p t=96kbar, the Gibbs free energy barrier at p t of ΔG=19.6mRyd/atom that stabilizes the phases against a phase transition and the finite pressure range in which both phases are stable. We show that the phases in that pressure range are completely described by three equilibrium lines of states along which the structure, the total energy E, the hydrostatic pressure p that would stabilize the structure and the values of G all vary. Two equilibrium lines describe the two phases (denoted the ph-eq line, ph is cd or β-Sn phase); a third line is a line of saddle points of G with respect to structure (denoted the sp-eq line) that forms a barrier of larger G against instability of the metastable ranges of the phase lines. An important conclusion is that the sp-eq line merges with the two ph-eq lines: one end of the sp-eq line merges with the cd-eq line at high pressure, the other end merges with the β-Sn-eq line at low pressure. The mergers end the barrier protecting the metastable ranges of the two ph-eq lines, hence the lines go unstable beyond the mergers. The mergers thus simplify the phase diagram by providing a natural termination to the stable parts of all metastable ranges of the ph-eq lines. Although 96kbar is lower than the experimental transition pressure, we note that phonon pressure raises the observed transition pressure. © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd.


03 May 2012


Journal of Physics Condensed Matter